Barnes v. Mercy Hospital et al
MEMORANDUM. Signed by Judge Ellen L. Hollander on 7/19/2021. (c/m 7/19/21 bmhs, Deputy Clerk)
Case 1:21-cv-01681-ELH Document 3 Filed 07/19/21 Page 1 of 3
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE DISTRICT OF MARYLAND
NATALIE NICOLE CARTER BARNES,
Civil Action No.: ELH-21-1681
MERCY HOSPITAL, et al.,
The above-captioned case was initiated upon the Court’s receipt of a Complaint filed on
July 7, 2021, by the self-represented plaintiff, Natalie Nicole Carter Barnes. ECF 1. Plaintiff also
filed a Motion to Proceed in Forma Pauperis (ECF 2), which shall be granted. ECF 2. For the
reasons discussed below, the Complaint must be dismissed.
Federal courts are courts of limited jurisdiction. Home Buyers Warranty Corp. v. Hanna,
750 F.3d 427, 432 (4th Cir. 2014) (quotation marks omitted) (citing Kokkonen v. Guardian Life
Ins. Co. of Am., 511 U.S. 375, 377 (1994)). Thus, a federal district court may only adjudicate a
case if it possesses the “power authorized by Constitution and statute.” Exxon Mobil Corp. v.
Allapattah Servs., Inc., 545 U.S. 546, 552 (2005) (internal quotation marks omitted). As the Fourth
Circuit stated in Strawn v. AT&T Mobility LLC, 530 F.3d 293, 296 (4th Cir. 2008), if a party seeks
to proceed in federal court, the party “must allege and, when challenged, must demonstrate the
federal court's [subject matter] jurisdiction over the matter.” Indeed, “if Congress has not
empowered the federal judiciary to hear a matter, then the case must be dismissed.” Hanna, 750
F.3d at 432.
Put another way, “[a] court is to presume . . . that a case lies outside its limited jurisdiction
unless and until jurisdiction has been shown to be proper.” United States v. Poole, 531 F.3d 263,
Case 1:21-cv-01681-ELH Document 3 Filed 07/19/21 Page 2 of 3
274 (4th Cir. 2008) (citing Kokkonen, 511 U.S. at 377). Even when no party challenges subject
matter jurisdiction, a federal court has “an independent obligation to determine whether subjectmatter jurisdiction exists.” Hertz Corp. v. Friend, 559 U.S. 77, 94 (2010).
Congress has conferred jurisdiction on the federal courts in several ways. To provide a
federal forum for plaintiffs who seek to vindicate federal rights, Congress has conferred on the
district courts original jurisdiction over civil actions that arise under the Constitution, laws, or
treaties of the United States. Exxon Mobil Corp., 545 U.S. at 552; 28 U.S.C. § 1331; see also U.S.
Const. art. III, § 2 (“The Judicial Power shall extend to all Cases, in Law and Equity, arising under
this Constitution, the Laws of the United States, and Treaties made . . .”). This is sometimes called
federal question jurisdiction.
In addition, “Congress . . . has granted district courts original jurisdiction in civil actions
between citizens of different States, between U.S. citizens and foreign citizens, or by foreign states
against U.S. citizens,” so long as the amount in controversy exceeds $75,000. Exxon Mobil Corp.,
545 U.S. at 552; see 28 U.S.C. § 1332. However, diversity jurisdiction “requires complete
diversity among parties, meaning that the citizenship of every plaintiff must be different from the
citizenship of every defendant.” Cent. W. Va. Energy Co., Inc. v. Mountain State Carbon, LLC,
636 F.3d 101, 103 (4th Cir. 2011) (emphasis added); see Strawbridge v. Curtiss, 7 U.S. 267 (1806).
The citizenship of the litigants is central when diversity jurisdiction is invoked. Axel
Johnson, Inc. v. Carroll Carolina Oil Co., 145 F.3d 660, 663 (4th Cir. 1998). Notably, “state
citizenship for diversity jurisdiction depends not on residence, but on national citizenship and
domicile.” Id. (citation omitted). And, “the existence of such citizenship cannot be inferred from
allegations of mere residence, standing alone.” Id; see also Robertson v. Cease, 97 U.S. 646, 648
(1878) (“Citizenship and residence, as often declared by this court, are not synonymous terms.”).
In other words, for “purposes of diversity jurisdiction, residency is not sufficient to establish
Case 1:21-cv-01681-ELH Document 3 Filed 07/19/21 Page 3 of 3
citizenship.” Johnson v. Advance Am., Cash Advance Ctrs. of S.C., Inc., 549 F.3d 932, 937 n.2
(4th Cir. 2008). Rather, a U.S. national is a citizen of the state where the person has his or her
domicile, which “requires physical presence, coupled with an intent to make the State a home.”
The “burden of establishing subject matter jurisdiction is on . . . the party asserting
jurisdiction.” Robb Evans & Assocs., LLC v. Holibaugh, 609 F.3d 359, 362 (4th Cir. 2010); accord
Hertz Corp., 599 U.S. at 95; McBurney v. Cuccinelli, 616 F.3d 393, 408 (4th Cir. 2010). Under
the “well-pleaded complaint” rule, the facts showing the existence of subject matter jurisdiction
“must be affirmatively alleged in the complaint.” Pinkley, Inc. v. City of Frederick, 191 F.3d 394,
399 (4th Cir.1999) (citing McNutt v. Gen'l Motors Acceptance Corp., 298 U.S. 178 (1936)).
The Court has afforded the Complaint liberal construction, because plaintiff is selfrepresented. See Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 94 (2007). Nevertheless, the alleged conduct
does not amount to a federal claim. At best, the Complaint asserts a claim for medical malpractice.
Such a claim arises under Maryland law and may be raised in a state court, but cannot be brought
in this court, absent a basis for federal jurisdiction.
The Complaint also fails to establish a basis for diversity jurisdiction. Based on the
Complaint, plaintiff and defendants are all citizens of Maryland. Additionally, the conduct giving
rise to the Complaint occurred in Maryland.
As the Complaint fails to demonstrate that there is
either federal question or diversity jurisdiction, it must be dismissed, without prejudice.
A separate Order follows.
July 19, 2021
Ellen L. Hollander
United States District Judge
Disclaimer: Justia Dockets & Filings provides public litigation records from the federal appellate and district courts. These filings and docket sheets should not be considered findings of fact or liability, nor do they necessarily reflect the view of Justia.
Why Is My Information Online?