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Holmes v. Price

United States District Court, D. South Carolina

March 26, 2019

Cynthia Holmes, Plaintiff,
v.
Thomas E. Price, Secretary of the Dept. of Health and Human Services, Defendant.

          ORDER

          THE HONORABLE BRUCE H. HENDRICKS, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         This matter is before the Court upon Plaintiff Cynthia Holmes' (“Holmes” or “Plaintiff”) pro se complaint appealing a decision of the Medicare Appeals Council. The named Defendant is the Secretary of the United States Department of Health and Human Services. On July 5, 2018, Defendant filed a motion to dismiss pursuant to Rule 12(b)(1) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure and motion for summary judgment pursuant to Rule 56 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. In accordance with 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(A) and (B) and Local Civil Rule 73.02(B)(2)(g) (D.S.C.), the matter was referred to a United States Magistrate Judge for preliminary review. On October 30, 2018, the Magistrate Judge issued a Report and Recommendation (“Report”) outlining the issues and recommending that the Court grant Defendant's motion. Plaintiff filed objections to the Report on November 19, 2019.

         STANDARDS OF REVIEW

         I. The Magistrate Judge's Report

         The Magistrate Judge makes only a recommendation to the Court. The recommendation has no presumptive weight, and the responsibility to make a final determination remains with the Court. Mathews v. Weber, 423 U.S. 261 (1976). The Court is charged with making a de novo determination only of those portions of the Report to which specific objections are made, and the Court may accept, reject, or modify, in whole or in part, the recommendation of the Magistrate Judge, or recommit the matter to the Magistrate Judge with instructions. 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1). In the absence of specific objections, the Court reviews the matter only for clear error. See Diamond v. Colonial Life & Accident Ins. Co., 416 F.3d 310, 315 (4th Cir. 2005) (stating that “in the absence of a timely filed objection, a district court need not conduct a de novo review, but instead must ‘only satisfy itself that there is no clear error on the face of the record in order to accept the recommendation.'”) (quoting Fed.R.Civ.P. 72 advisory committee's note).

         II. Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(1)

         A Rule 12(b)(1) motion for lack of subject matter jurisdiction raises the fundamental question of whether a court has jurisdiction to adjudicate the matter before it. Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(1). In determining whether jurisdiction exists, the court is to “regard the pleadings' allegations as mere evidence on the issue, and may consider evidence outside the pleadings without converting the proceeding to one for summary judgment.” Richmond, Fredericksburg & Potomac R.R. Co. v. United States, 945 F.2d 765, 768 (4th Cir. 1991) (citing Adams v. Bain, 697 F.2d 1213, 1219 (4th Cir. 1982)). “The moving party should prevail only if the material jurisdictional facts are not in dispute and the moving party is entitled to prevail as a matter of law.” Id. (citation omitted). The plaintiff bears the burden of proof on questions of subject matter jurisdiction. See Evans v. B.F. Perkins Co., 166 F.3d 642, 647 (4th Cir. 1999).

         III. Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56

         A court shall grant summary judgment if a party shows that there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a). The judge is not to weigh the evidence, but rather to determine if there is a genuine issue of fact. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 249 (1986). If no material factual disputes remain, then summary judgment should be granted against a party who fails to make a showing sufficient to establish the existence of an element essential to that party's case, and on which the party bears the burden of proof. Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323 (1986). All evidence should be viewed in the light most favorable to the non-moving party. See Perini Corp. v. Perini Constr., Inc., 915 F.2d 121, 123-24 (4th Cir. 1990).

         ANALYSIS

         As an initial matter, the Court finds that Plaintiff's objections are untimely. As previously mentioned, the Magistrate Judge filed his Report on October 30, 2018, and attached to the Report was a notice advising Plaintiff of her right to file specific, written objections to the Report within fourteen days after being served with a copy of the Report. Pursuant to Rule 5(b)(2)(C) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, the date of service is the date the Report was mailed to Plaintiff, which was October 30, 2018. A party receives three additional days to file objections if served by mail or otherwise allowed under Rule 6 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. Here, adding three days of mail time, Plaintiff needed to file her objections on or before Friday, November 16, 2018.[1] However, Plaintiff did not file her objections with the Court until Monday, November 19, 2018.[2] Thus, Plaintiff's objections are untimely.

         Even leaving aside the issue of untimeliness, however, the Court also finds that Plaintiff's objections are not sufficiently specific. In her 24 pages of objections, Plaintiff mentions the Report approximately four times. First, she asserts on page one that she “respectfully enters objections to the Report and Recommendation.” (ECF No. 45 at 1.) Then, on page seven, she asserts that she requested disposition of this case by a district judge and “objects to the Magistrate's denial of that request and enters objections to the Report and Recommendation (R&R) in whole.” (Id. at 7.) She contends that the Report omits materially important public issues and disputes the Report's purported facts without identifying which facts she disputes. (Id.) On page ten, Plaintiff states that the “R&R errs in effectively denying the intended beneficiary, the patient, the rights and protections Congress intended and granted to parties under HIPAA's Privacy Rule . . . .” (Id. at 10.) Finally, on page thirteen, Plaintiff again asserts that she requested disposition by a district judge; she contends “there is and was no consent for R&R” and “disputes the R&R in whole.” (ECF No. 45 at 13.) The remainder of Plaintiff's objections consist of portions of her prior response in opposition to Defendant's motion, and overall, the Court finds that Plaintiff does not specifically point to any errors in the Magistrate Judge's analysis of the facts or law applicable to Plaintiff's claims. (Cf. ECF No. 34 at 3-12 and ECF No. 45 at 12-22.) Rather, Plaintiff simply reargues her entire case under the guise of objecting.

         The United States District Court for the Western District of Virginia once reviewed objections to a Magistrate Judge's Report that were copied directly from prior pleadings and determined that this practice does not constitute the submission of specific, written objections and does not entitle a plaintiff to de novo review. See Veney v. Astrue, 539 F.Supp.2d 841, 845 (W.D.Va. 2008). Specifically, in Veney, the court stated:

A general objection such as that offered by Plaintiff fails to satisfy the requirements of Rule 72(b) and 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(C). See United States v. Midgette, 478 F.3d 616, 621-22 (4th Cir. 2007) ("Section 636(b)(1) does not countenance a form of generalized objection to cover all issues addressed by the magistrate judge; it contemplates that a party's objection to a magistrate judge's report be specific and particularized . . . ."); Page v. Lee, 337 F.3d 411, 416 n. 3 (4th Cir. 2003) ("[P]etitioner's failure to object to the magistrate judge's recommendation with the specificity required by the Rule is, standing alone, a sufficient basis upon which to affirm the judgment of the district court. . . ."). Accordingly, "[a] general objection to the entirety of the magistrate's report has the same effects as would a ...

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