Allis v. Sanford USD Medical Center
ORDER granting 3 Motion for Leave to Proceed in forma pauperis and DISMISSING CASE. Signed by U.S. District Judge Lawrence L. Piersol on 4/10/18. (DJP)
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
DISTRICT OF SOUTH DAKOTA
ORDER DISMISSING CASE
SANFORD USD MEDICAL CENTER,
Plaintiff, Gregory Allis, filed a pro se lawsuit alleging that defendant, Sanford USD
Medical Center, failed to timely submit claims to the Veterans Administration for emergency
medical treatment Sanford provided Allis. Docket I. Allis also moves for leave to proceed in
forma pauperis. Docket 3.
A federal court may authorize the commencement of suit without prepayment of fees
when an applicant files an affidavit stating he is unable to pay the costs ofthe lawsuit. 28 U.S.C.
§ 1915. Determining whether an applicant is sufficiently impoverished to qualify to proceed in
forma pauperis under § I9I5 is committed to the court's discretion. Cross v. Gen. Motors Corp.,
721 F.2d 1152, 1157 (8th Cir. 1983). "In forma pauperis status does not require a litigant to
demonstrate absolute destitution." Lee v. McDonald's Corp., 231 F.3d 456,459 (8th Cir. 2000).
The Court finds that Allis satisfies § 1915, and grants his motion for leave to proceed in forma
Proceeding in forma pauperis is governed by 28 U.S.C.§ 1915. That statute provides:
Notwithstanding any filing fee, . .. the court shall dismiss the case at any time if
the court determines that
(B)the action or appeal
is frivolous or malicious;
fails to state a claim on which relief may be granted; or
seeks monetary relief against a defendant who is immune from
28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2). Subsection (e)(2) allows the court sua sponte to review a complaint
filed with an in forma pauperis application to determine if the aetion is frivolous, malicious,
fails to state a elaim, or seeks monetary relief against a defendant or defendants who are
immune from such relief. Thus, the court is required to screen a pro se complaint as soon as
practicable and to dismiss those which are frivolous or fail to state a claim for relief. "[A]
complaint, containing as it does both factual allegations and legal conclusions, is frivolous
where it lacks an arguable basis either in law or in fact. ...[the] term 'frivolous,' when applied
to a complaint, embraces not only the inarguable legal conclusion, but also the fanciful factual
allegation." Neitzke v. Williams, 490 U.S. 319, 325 (1989).
Because Allis is proceeding pro se, his pleadings must be liberally construed and his
complaint, "however inartfully pleaded, must be held to less stringent standards than formal
pleadings drafted by lawyers." Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 94(2007)(internal quotation
marks and citation omitted). However, a plaintiff seeking to bring a lawsuit in federal court
must establish that the court has subject matter jurisdiction.
"[Fjederal courts are courts of limited jurisdiction .. . ." United States v. Afremov, 611
F.3d 970, 975 (8th Cir. 2010). A District Court "has a special obligation to consider whether it
has subject matter jurisdiction in every case." Hart v. United States, 630 F.3d 1085, 1089 (8th
Cir. 2011)"This obligation includes the concomitant responsibility 'to consider sua sponte [the
court's subject matter]jurisdiction ... where ... [the court] believe[s] that jurisdiction may be
lacking.'"Id.(quoting Clark v. Baka,593 F.3d 712,714(8th Cir. 2010)).
Allis's does not allege grounds for jurisdiction. Allis's complaint only alleges that
Sanford failed to timely submit a claim to the VA as permitted under 38 U.S.C. § 1725. Federal
courts have subject matter jurisdiction through federal question jurisdiction or diversity
jurisdiction. Under 28 U.S.C.A. § 1331, federal district courts "have original jurisdiction of all
civil actions arising under the Constitution, laws, or treaties of the United States." Under
28 U.S.C.A. § 1332, federal district courts "have original jurisdiction of all civil actions where
the matter in controversy exceeds the sum or value of $75,000, exclusive of interest and costs,
and is between ... citizens of different States[.]"
Allis does not raise a federal question. "[A] suit 'arises under' federal law 'only when
the plaintiffs statement of his own cause of action shows that it is based upon [federal law].'"
Vaden v. Discover Bank, 556 U.S. 49, 60 (2009) (quoting Louisville & Nashville R. Co. v.
Mottley, 211 U.S. 149, 152 (1908)). Although Allis may be attempting to base his claim on
38 U.S.C. § 1725, Allis fails to demonstrate how his claim arises under this federal law when he
named Sanford as the defendant. This statute does not create a cause of action under which a
veteran may sue a health care provider for failure to seek reimbursement Ifrom the VA. Rather,
"[sjection 1725 .... bestows upon the Secretary [of Veterans Affairs] the power to reimburse
an 'eligible,' non-service-connected veteran 'the reasonable value of emergency treatment
furnished ... in a non-Department facility.' 38 U.S.C. § 1725(a)." Fritz v. Nicholson, 20 Vet.
App. 507, 510(2006). In cases involving veterans' claims for benefits. Congress has created an
exclusive channel of judicial review. A veteran's request for benefits is first processed and
decided by VA officials in regional offices, under the ultimate authority of the Secretary of
Veterans Affairs. Henderson ex rel. Henderson v. Shinseki, 562 U.S. 428, 431 (2011)
(explaining the VA's process for adjudicating benefits claims). If the veteran is unhappy with
the initial benefits deeision, he or she may appeal to the Board of Veterans' Appeals, within one
year of the VA's decisions..38 U.S.C. §§ 7104-7105. Under the Veterans' Judieial Review Aet
of 1988 (VJRA), the veteran may then appeal to the United States Court of Appeals for
Veterans Claims, an Artiele I tribunal ereated by the VJRA, which has exclusive jurisdiction
over decisions made by the Appeals Board. 38 U.S.C. §§ 7251-7252(a). Nowhere is there a
provision for original decision by or appeal to the United States District Court. A district court
lacks subject matter jurisdietion to review decisions of the VA regarding individual benefits,
and must aeeordingly dismiss sueh a case. Pate v. Department of Veterans Affairs, 881 F. Supp.
553, 556(M.D. Ala. 1995). Therefore, the Court does not have jurisdiction over the complaint
pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1331.
Allis's complaint does not allege diversity. Under 28 U.S.C. § 1332(a), "Diversity
jurisdiction "requires an amount in controversy greater than $75,000 and complete diversity of
citizenship of the litigants." E2 Biofuels, LLC v. Biothane, LLC, 781 F.3d 972, 975 (8th Cir.
2015) (quoting OnePoint Solutions, LLC v. Borchert, 486 F.3d 342, 346 (8th Cir. 2007)).
"'Complete diversity of citizenship exists where no defendant holds citizenship in the same
state where any plaintiff holds eitizenship.' " Id. (quoting OnePoint, 486 F.3d at 346). For
purposes of determining diversity jurisdiction,"a corporation shall be deemed to be a citizen of
any State by whieh it has been ineorporated and of the State where it has its prineipal plaee of
business. .. ." 28 U.S.C. § 1332 (emphasis added). Sanford Medical Center is incorporated in
South Dakota as a non-profit corporation which operates a hospital in Sioux Falls under the
name Sanford USD Medical Center. Allis identified his residenee as loeated in South Dakota.
Doeket 1 at 1-2. Because Sanford and Allis appear to be citizens of South Dakota, complete
diversity is absent in this case. Therefore, the Court does not have jurisdiction over the
complaint pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1332(a).
Finally, even if this court possessed jurisdiction, Allis identifies no cause of action. As
discussed above, 38 U.S.C. § 1725(a) gives the Secretary of Veterans Affairs authority to
reimburse the value of some emergency services to non-VA facilities. It does not create a cause
of action under which a veteran could sue a health care provider. Allis has failed to cite, and the
court has been unable to locate, any authority which would support implying a civil cause of
action for failing to timely submit claims to the Veterans Administration. Thus, Allis fails to
state a claim upon which relief may be granted under 28 U.S.C. §§ 1915(e)(2)(B)(ii) and
Accordingly, it is ORDERED
Allis's motion for leave to proceed in forma pauperis(Docket 3)is granted.
Allis's complaint is dismissed without prejudice for lack ofsubject matter
jurisdiction and failure to state a claim upon which relief may be granted under
28 U.S.C. §§ 1915(e)(2)(B)(ii) and 1915A(b)(l).
Dated this 10th day of April, 2018.
BY THE COURT:
iwrence L. Piersol
United States District Judge
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