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Paul v. Government of District of Columbia

United States District Court, District of Columbia

June 21, 2018

GHISLAINE PAUL, Plaintiff,
v.
GOVERNMENT OF THE DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA, et al., Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          AMY BERMAN JACKSON, United States District Judge

         Plaintiff Ghislaine Paul, proceeding pro se, brought this action against the District of Columbia, the Attorney General of the District of Columbia, and D.C.'s Office of Risk Management (“ORM”). She claims that defendants were negligent and that they violated the District's workers' compensation laws, D.C. Code § 32-1501 et seq., in connection with an injury she suffered sixteen years ago while working as a public-school teacher.[1] Compl. [Dkt. # 1] at 4. Plaintiff also asserts civil rights claims under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 and several other federal and D.C. statutes. Id. at 2. She seeks damages “believed to be the sum of ten thousand dollars . . . per day for each day that treatment was denied beginning on May 3, 2002.” Id. at 4. Defendants have moved to dismiss plaintiff's complaint on the grounds that the negligence claim is time-barred, the workers' compensation claim is precluded by res judicata, and the complaint fails to state federal claims. See generally Mot. to Dismiss [Dkt. # 10] (“Defs.' Mot.”); Defs.' Mem. of P. & A. in Supp. of Defs.' Mot. [Dkt. # 10] (“Defs.' Mem.”). Plaintiff has opposed the motion. See generally Pl.'s Mem. in Opp. to Defs.' Mot. [Dkt. # 12] (“Pl.'s Opp.”). Upon consideration of the parties' submissions, the relevant authorities, and the record as a whole, the Court will grant defendants' motion to dismiss plaintiff's lawsuit.

         BACKGROUND

         The Court will do its best to summarize the relevant factual and procedural history in this case, which spans sixteen years and includes multiple administrative and court proceedings. The Court relies on plaintiff's pleadings, although they were somewhat scattershot and unclear, as well as public records from previous proceedings. See EEOC v. St. Francis Xavier Parochial Sch., 117 F.3d 621, 624 (D.C. Cir. 1997) (stating that the court may take into account “matters of . . . judicial notice” in addition to the pleadings); Donelson v. U.S. Bureau of Prisons, 82 F.Supp.3d 367, 371 (D.D.C. 2015) (noting that, in evaluating a motion to dismiss, “[t]he court may take judicial notice of another court's proceedings”), citing Jenson v. Huerta, 828 F.Supp.2d 174, 179 (D.D.C. 2011). The facts taken from plaintiff's complaint must be accepted as true for purposes of a motion to dismiss. See Atherton v. D.C. Office of the Mayor, 567 F.3d 672, 681 (D.C. Cir. 2009), citing Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 94 (2007).

         Plaintiff, a resident of Maryland, worked as a teacher at Francis Junior High School in the District of Columbia public school system. Compl. at 1, 3. On May 3, 2002, plaintiff was struck on the head by a “large, heavy, framed map which had fallen over.” Id. at 3. She claims that the incident caused her bodily injury and ongoing physical and psychological suffering. Id.

         Plaintiff applied for, and was granted, disability benefits under ORM's Disability Compensation Program (“DCP”) on August 20, 2002. Compl. at 3. In 2004, plaintiff's benefits were terminated because she failed to attend vocational rehabilitation training required by the program. Paul, 292 F.R.D. at 152. But plaintiff's benefits were restored on November 29, 2006, after she administratively challenged the termination. Id. The following year, on May 16, 2007, plaintiff underwent a medical examination by Dr. Noubar Didizian. Id. Dr. Didizian produced a report that allegedly resulted in plaintiff's benefits being terminated a second time on October 15, 2007. Id.

         Plaintiff challenged the termination of her disability benefits again, resulting in a full evidentiary hearing before an Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”) in the Administrative Hearings Division (“AHD”) of the District of Columbia Department of Employment Services. Ghislaine Paul, 2008 WL 731335 (D.C. Dep't of Emp't Servs. Feb. 6, 2008) (“2008 Compensation Order”). The issue in that proceeding was the “nature and extent of [c]laimant's disability, ” and the ALJ concluded that “claimant's work-injury has resolved” after she received extensive medical treatment, and that “she [was] capable of returning to her pre-injury employment.” 2008 Compensation Order at 1-2.

         Accordingly, the ALJ issued a Compensation Order on February 6, 2008, denying plaintiff's claim for relief and reinstatement of benefits. 2008 Compensation Order at 3-4. This decision was upheld by DCP's Compensation Review Board, which found that the decision was supported by substantial evidence and denied plaintiff's request to remand her case for a new hearing. See Ex. 1 to Defs.' Mem. [Dkt. # 10] (“AHD 2009 Order”) at 1. Plaintiff then appealed the Compensation Review Board's decision to the District of Columbia Court of Appeals, which granted summary affirmance, denied plaintiff's motion to recall the mandate, and made the underlying Compensation Order final on May 4, 2009. Id.

         Plaintiff's quest did not end there. She filed appeals with the Administrative Hearings Division on May 21, 2009 and May 27, 2009, that amounted to a motion to reinstate and reconsider and schedule a new hearing. See AHD 2009 Order at 1. On August 11, 2009, this motion was denied under the doctrine of res judicata because the 2008 Compensation Order was recognized as a final judgment on the merits that precluded relitigation. Id. at 2.

         Not satisfied, plaintiff next sought relief in federal court. On October 1, 2010, she filed suit in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia against the District of Columbia and Dr. Didizian, alleging that Dr. Didizian's examination amounted to medical malpractice. Paul, 292 F.R.D. at 152. The suit was transferred to the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, where it was dismissed for lack of subject matter jurisdiction. Paul v. Didizian, 819 F.Supp.2d 31, 35-36 (D.D.C. 2011) (holding that diversity jurisdiction was missing between plaintiff and Dr. Didizian because both were citizens of Pennsylvania at the time and that “vague and unexplained references” to federal rights in a “rambling” complaint were insufficient to establish federal question jurisdiction). Plaintiff appealed that ruling, and on April 11, 2012, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit summarily affirmed the district court's decision. Paul v. Didizian, No. 11-7139, 2012 WL 1450083 (D.C. Cir. Apr. 11, 2012).

         But plaintiff pressed on. On July 20, 2012, she filed a second lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia against the District of Columbia government and Dr. Didizian, alleging medical malpractice and violations of several federal statutes in connection with the termination of her benefits. Paul, 292 F.R.D. at 152. The court granted the District's motion to dismiss for insufficient service of process. Id. at 158. It also granted Dr. Didizian's motion to dismiss for failure to assert a claim within the statute of limitations, and denied plaintiff's motion to reopen and consolidate. Id. at 157-58.

         Finally, plaintiff initiated this action, her third federal lawsuit, on April 4, 2017, in the U.S. District Court for the District of Maryland, which transferred the case to this Court because venue was improper there. Order [Dkt. # 6] (“Transfer Order”) at 4. The court reasoned that all defendants are District of Columbia residents and a “substantial part of the events or omissions giving rise to the claims” occurred in the District of Columbia, not Maryland. Id. at 3-4. “Therefore, regardless whether jurisdiction is based on diversity or federal question, venue is proper in the District of Columbia, but not Maryland.” Id. at 4.

         On September 8, 2017, defendants moved to dismiss plaintiff's lawsuit pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6), Defs.' Mot. at 1; Defs.' Mem. at 1. Plaintiff opposed the motion on October 18, 2017, Pl.'s Opp., and defendants filed their reply on October 27, 2017. Defs.' Reply Mem. of P. & A. in Supp. of Defs.' Mot. [Dkt. # 14].

         STANDARD ...


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