TALBERT v. WISE et al
MEMORANDUM. AN APPROPRIATE ORDER FOLLOWS.. SIGNED BY HONORABLE LAWRENCE F. STENGEL ON 4/10/17. 4/11/17 ENTERED AND COPIES MAILED TO PRO SE PLFF., 1 COPY TO LEGAL BIN.(pr, )
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE EASTERN DISTRICT OF PENNSYLVANIA
PENNSYLVANIA DEPARTMENT OF
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KATE BN:.v· ; ' · .. .
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Plaintiff Charles Talbert brings this civil action, pursuant to 42 U .S.C. § 1983, against the
Pennsylvania Department of Public Welfare (DPW) and DPW employee, Tina Wise, based on
the fact that DPW recovered a portion of his recent legal settlement. Talbert seeks leave to
proceed informa pauperis. The Court will grant Talbert leave to proceed informa pauperis and
dismiss his complaint.
While he was a pretrial detainee within the Philadelphia Prison System, Talbert was
injured in the course of an ileostomy reversal surgery. The City of Philadelphia apparently
acquired funds from DPW to cover the costs of Talbert's approximately thirty-day stay at the
hospital. (Compl. if 8.) The complaint and letters attached to the complaint reflect that DPW
covered $74,853.04 of Talbert's medical costs.
Talbert filed a medical malpractice lawsuit against the Albert Einstein Medical Center
and the doctor who performed his surgery. Ms. Wise sent a letter to the defendants' attorney
informing her that, in accordance with 62 Pa. Cons. Stat. § 1409, DPW had "a first claim on any
The following facts are taken from the complaint and documents attached to the complaint.
judgment, award, or settlement to insure the reimbursement of the Medicaid Program." Talbert
sent a letter to Ms. Wise objecting to DPW's interest. He subsequently settled his medical
malpractice case for a total of $7 ,500, half of which was allocated to DPW.
Talbert subsequently filed the instant case, pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983, against DPW
and Wise because he believes that they "abused their State authority, to unlawfully threaten, and
take money" from his settlement. (Compl.
14.) He seeks damages.
STANDARD OF REVIEW
Talbert's motion to proceed informa pauperis is granted because it appears that he is not
capable of paying the fees to commence this civil action. Accordingly, 28 U.S.C. §
1915(e)(2)(B)(ii) requires the Court to dismiss the complaint if it fails to state a claim. To
survive dismissal, the complaint must contain "sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to state
a claim to relief that is plausible on its face." Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009)
(quotations omitted). "[M]ere conclusory statements do not suffice." Id. The Court may also
consider exhibits attached to the complaint. Buck v. Hampton Twp. Sch. Dist., 452 F.3d 256, 260
(3d Cir. 2006). As Talbert is proceeding prose, the Court construes his allegations liberally.
Higgs v. Att'y Gen., 655 F.3d 333, 339 (3d Cir. 2011).
"To state a claim under § 1983, a plaintiff must allege the violation of a right secured by
the Constitution and laws of the United States, and must show that the alleged deprivation was
committed by a person acting under color of state law." West v. Atkins, 487 U.S. 42, 48 (1988).
It is not clear what constitutional violation Talbert believes occurred here. Accordingly, the
Court will construe the complaint as raising a procedural due process claim based on DPW's
recovery of a portion of Talbert's settlement proceeds. "Fundamentally, procedural due process
requires notice and an opportunity to be heard" in a meaningful time and manner. Mancini v.
Northampton Cnty., 836 F.3d 308, 315 (3d Cir. 2016) (citing Mathews v. Eldridge, 424 U.S. 319,
State law permits DPW to be reimbursed from a settlement when it has paid medical costs
related to the underlying claim as long as DPW's recovery does not exceed half of the Medicaid
beneficiary's recovery after certain deductions. See 62 Pa. Cons. Stat. § 1409; Shaffer-Doan ex
rel. Doan v. Com. Dep't of Pub. Welfare, 960 A.2d 500, 506 (Pa. Commw. Ct. 2008) ("The
overarching purpose of [The Fraud and Abuse Control Act] is to authorize DPW to obtain
compensation from third parties for benefits DPW paid on behalf of a person injured by the third
parties."); see also Tristani ex rel. Karnes v. Richman, 652 F.3d 360, 370 & 377-78 (3d Cir.
2011) (holding that DPW may legally assert a lien against a Medicaid beneficiary's recovery
relating to medical costs and that Pennsylvania's allocation scheme is lawful because
beneficiaries have the ability to appeal). Letters attached to the complaint reflect that Talbert
received notice of DPW's lien before he settled the case. If Talbert sought to challenge the lien
or the amount DPW recovered, he could have litigated the matter in state court or appealed to the
Bureau of Hearings and Appeals. See 62 Pa. Cons. Stat.§ 1409; 55 Pa. Code§ 259.3. Nothing
in the complaint suggests that those procedures are inadequate or that Talbert even attempted to
avail himself of them. Accordingly, Talbert has not stated a due process claim. Talbert's claims
against DPW also fail because, as a department of the Commonwealth, DPW is entitled to
Eleventh Amendment immunity and, in any event, is not a "person" for purposes of§ 1983. See
Will v. Mich. Dep 't ofState Police, 491 U.S. 58, 65-66 (1989); Betts v. New Castle Youth Dev.
Ctr., 621 F.3d 249, 254-55 (3d Cir. 2010).
For the foregoing reasons, the Court will dismiss Talbert's complaint. The Court will
give Talbert leave to file an amended complaint in light of the liberal standard governing
amendment. An appropriate order follows, which shall be docketed separately.
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