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Wall v. United States

United States District Court, D. Utah, Northern Division

April 23, 2019

JARED WALL, Plaintiff,
UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, et al., Defendants.



         Plaintiff Jared Wall, proceeding pro se and in forma pauperis, filed this action on November 6, 2018. (ECF Nos. 2, 3.) Mr. Wall's initial complaint failed to properly comply with Federal Rules of Civil Procedure 8 and 10. (See generally Complaint (“First Complaint”), ECF No. 3.) On November 20, 2018, the magistrate judge issued a Ruling and Order (“Ruling”) requiring Mr. Wall to correct his deficient pleading within twenty days or face dismissal of the action. (ECF No. 7.) Further, the Ruling admonished him that failure to comply with the procedural rules could result in a recommendation of dismissal to the District Judge. (Id.)

         Approximately twenty-seven days later, on December 17, 2018, Mr. Wall filed a motion for extension of time (“Motion”) to file the amended complaint. He attached an amended complaint to the Motion. (ECF No. 8.) The basis for his request was that the Clerk's office had closed early on December 14, 2018, when he attempted to file his amended complaint. (Id.) This court granted the Motion on January 29, 2019, and the Clerk's office filed the amended complaint on the same date. (ECF Nos. 9, 10.) Mr. Wall's amended complaint (ECF No. 10), however, still does not comply with the operative procedural rules. For the reasons set forth below, the court dismisses Mr. Wall's action for lack of jurisdiction.


         Deficiencies in the Amended Complaint

         Like the First Complaint, Mr. Wall's amended complaint fails to allege facts establishing subject matter jurisdiction, and it does not state a proper claim for relief under Rules 8 and 12 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure.[1]

         With regard to jurisdiction, “[federal] [d]istrict courts have limited subject matter jurisdiction and may [only] hear cases when empowered to do so by the Constitution and by act of Congress.” Radil v. Sanborn W. Camps, Inc., 384 F.3d 1220, 1225 (10th Cir. 2004) (internal quotation marks omitted). There is a presumption against jurisdiction absent a showing by the party seeking to invoke the court's jurisdiction. See Dutcher v. Matheson, 733 F.3d 980, 985 (10th Cir. 2013). Furthermore, “[a] court lacking jurisdiction cannot render judgment but must dismiss the cause at any stage of the proceedings in which it becomes apparent that jurisdiction is lacking.” Basso v. Utah Power & Light Co., 495 F.2d 906, 909 (10th Cir. 1974). Consequently, federal courts must independently determine whether subject matter jurisdiction exists with or without prompting from a party. See Arbaugh v. Y&H Corp., 546 U.S. 500, 514 (2006).

         Generally, there are two types of subject matter jurisdiction: diversity jurisdiction and federal question jurisdiction. Diversity jurisdiction exits 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. 28 U.S.C. § 1332. Federal question jurisdiction, however, authorizes federal courts to decide “civil actions arising under the Constitution, laws, or treaties of the United States.” 28 U.S.C. § 1331. Federal question jurisdiction requires that the federal question appear on the complaint's face, be a substantial component of the plaintiff's claim, and be of significant federal interest. Nicodemus v. Union Pac. Corp., 318 F.3d 1231, 1232 (10th Cir. 2003). Stated another way, a complaint must establish that either a federal law creates the underlying cause of action or that the plaintiff's right to relief necessarily depends on resolution of a substantial question of federal law. This is often referred to as the “well-pleaded complaint rule.” Id.

         Mr. Wall's amended complaint fails to establish diversity jurisdiction or federal question jurisdiction. Although Mr. Wall may meet the amount in controversy requirement of 28 U.S.C. § 1332, the amended complaint fails to allege facts sufficient to establish “all parties on one side of the litigation are of a different citizenship from all parties on the other side of the litigation.” Depex Reina 9 P'ship v. Texas Int'l Petroleum Corp., 897 F.2d 461, 463 (10th Cir. 1990).

         As for establishing that the court has federal question jurisdiction, Mr. Wall's amended complaint likewise falls short. The federal question at issue is not clear from the face of the amended complaint. Even though Mr. Wall lists 38 U.S.C § 7316, Veteran's benefits, once in the caption, and briefly references the federal and state constitutions on page four of the pleading, such passing mentions are insufficient to comply with the well-pleaded complaint requirement. For instance, Mr. Wall has not sufficiently pleaded that a government officer or employee, acting in an official capacity, injured Mr. Wall by taking action contrary to a federal statute or a provision of the United States Constitution. At most, viewing the amended complaint liberally, Mr. Wall alleges he was potentially misdiagnosed by a medical professional at a private medical facility.

         Similarly, Mr. Wall's claim that the United States and the State of Utah allegedly denied him benefits suffers from the same shortfalls. The amended complaint is bereft of details pertaining to any disability administrative proceedings in which Mr. Wall qualified as disabled and was wrongly denied benefits. Although Mr. Wall's allegations appear to suggest some type of wrongdoing, it is not the responsibility of this court to “collect, organize and articulate the cumulative legal significance” of these materials with respect to each of Mr. Wall's claims. Schaede v. The Boeing Company, 72 F.3d 138, *1 (10th Cir. 1995) (unpublished). Without this information, Mr. Wall does not establish federal question jurisdiction.

         Separately, Mr. Wall did not follow this court's roadmap for complying with Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 8.[2] Merely mentioning Title 38 of the United States Code, Veteran's Benefits, does not give the defendants proper notice of a claim and the ground upon which it rests. This is especially true given that Mr. Wall does not set forth any facts detailing if he is a veteran or a qualifying family member of a veteran who received medical care in a government facility that resulted in harm. Moreover, Mr. Wall's mention of a federal law in the caption is akin to mentioning a federal law in the jurisdictional section only of a complaint, which is insufficient to comply with Rule 8. See generally, Eckert v. Titan Tire Corp., 514 F.3d 801, 806-07 (8th Cir. 2008) (discussing the rule that merely invoking a law in the jurisdictional section of a complaint does not comply with notice requirements of Rule 8).

         For the reasons stated above, the court has determined that Mr. Wall's amended complaint must be dismissed for failure to establish jurisdiction and failure to give proper notice of the claims, as required by Rule 8. Such dismissal is with prejudice because Mr. Wall has already been given an opportunity to correct the deficiencies in his original complaint.

         Restricted ...

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