United States District Court, W.D. Washington, Seattle
ORDER ON MOTION TO DISMISS OR FOR SUMMARY
L. ROBART UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
the court is Defendant United States of America's
(“the Government”)motion to dismiss for lack of
subject matter jurisdiction or for summary judgment. (Mot.
(Dkt. # 16).) Plaintiff Sabelita Hawkins opposes the
Government's motion. (Resp. (Dkt. # 17).) The court has
considered the Government's motion, the parties'
submissions in support of and in opposition to the motion,
the relevant portions of the record, and the applicable law.
Being fully advised,  the court GRANTS the Government's
motion for the reasons set forth below.
matter arises from a mental health breakdown that Ms. Hawkins
suffered as a result of workplace bullying. (See
Compl. (Dkt. # 1) ¶ 4.3-4.4; Claim (Dkt. # 1-1) at 4.)
Ms. Hawkins alleges that on October 22, 2011, she suffered a
psychotic episode at work resulting from a failed meeting to
address workplace bullying. (Compl. ¶¶ 4.4-4.5.)
After this psychotic episode, Ms. Hawkins was admitted to
Swedish-Edmonds Hospital for observation from October 22,
2011, to October 24, 2011. (Id. ¶ 4.5; Longosky
Decl. (Dkt. # 21) at 1, Ex. D at 14 (stating a discharge date
of October 24th).) After her release, Ms. Hawkins followed up
with resident physician Daniel Doan on October 26, 2011, at
the Veterans Hospital Women's Clinic. (Compl. ¶
4.6.) Ms. Hawkins told Dr. Doan that she was experiencing
insomnia, anxiety, depression, and difficulty concentrating
that interfered with her daily activities. (Id.
¶ 4.7; see also Claim at 4 (stating that Ms.
Hawkins informed Dr. Doan she was suffering “worsening
insomnia, extreme anxiety, severe depression, difficulty
concentrating[, ] and nervousness”); Johnson Decl.
(Dkt. # 20) ¶ 3, Ex. E (“Hawkins Dep.) at
37:17-22, 54:11.) Ms. Hawkins was also treated for
gastrointestinal issues at this time. (See Longosky
Decl., Ex. D at 6-7, 9.) Ms. Hawkins allegedly requested that
Dr. Doan prescribe lorazepam, but Dr. Doan allegedly declined
that request due to that medication's habit-forming
characteristics. (Compl. ¶ 4.7.) Dr. Doan instead
prescribed Zoloft for Ms. Hawkins's anxiety and
depression. (Id. ¶ 4.8.) Ms. Hawkins further
alleges that Dr. Doan recommended she avoid drugs and alcohol
and “follow up with her outside Bellevue
Counselor.” (Id. ¶ 4.9.) Despite Dr.
Doan's recommendations, Ms. Hawkins asserts that her
anxiety and insomnia worsened. (Id.)
Hawkins followed up with Dr. Doan on November 16, 2011, and
complained that the medication Dr. Doan had prescribed was
not working. (Id. ¶ 4.10.) Dr. Doan allegedly
told Ms. Hawkins that she had not given Zoloft enough time to
effectively work. (Id.) Later that month, on
November 30, 2011, Dr. Carl Jensen evaluated Ms. Hawkins to
determine whether she could return to work. (Id.
¶ 4.11.) According to Ms. Hawkins, Dr. Jensen diagnosed
her with post-traumatic stress disorder (“PTSD”)
during that evaluation and did not prescribe any additional
medication for Ms. Hawkins's anxiety and insomnia.
(Id. ¶ 4.12.)
Hawkins alleges that she further deteriorated in December
2011 after prolonged sleeplessness over two to three days.
(Id. ¶ 4.13.) Due to the lack of sleep, Ms.
Hawkins alleges that on December 15, 2011, she became
psychotic again. (Id.) During this episode, she
attacked her mother and was arrested. (Id.; Longosky
Decl. at 1, Ex. C at 7.)
October 24, 2013, Ms. Hawkins presented a claim under the
Federal Tort Claims Act (“FTCA”), 28 U.S.C.
§ 2671 et seq., to the VA for the doctors'
alleged malpractice in treating Ms. Hawkins after the
workplace psychotic episode. (See Claim at 2, 4-5.)
The VA denied Ms. Hawkins's claim on April 18, 2014,
concluding that “there was no negligent or wrongful act
on the part of an employee of the [VA] acting within the
scope of his or her employment.” (Denial (Dkt. # 1-2)
at 2).) On October 1, 2014, Ms. Hawkins requested that the VA
reconsider its denial. (Recons. (Dkt. # 1-3) at 2-4.)
on these events, Ms. Hawkins filed this lawsuit on April 6,
2016. (See Dkt.) She brings an FTCA claim on
theories of negligence, medical malpractice, corporate
negligence, and violation of Washington's Vulnerable
Adult Protection Act, RCW 74.34. (Compl. ¶¶
5.1-5.32.) Ms. Hawkins seeks damages of $1, 500, 000.00 for
“serious personal injuries, pain and suffering[, ] and
mental anguish.” (Id. ¶¶ 6.1-6.2.)
Ms. Hawkins also seeks special damages, including
out-of-pocket costs, medical costs, lost income, loss of
household services, and other special damages in an amount to
be proven at trial. (Id. ¶ 6.3.) Ms. Hawkins
contends that the Government is liable for negligence in Ms.
Hawkins's treatment and the supervision of her treatment
because the treatments Drs. Doan and Jensen prescribed did
not work, the doctors did not suggest any treatment for
insomnia, and the doctors' care fell below that of a
reasonably prudent physician. (See Id. ¶¶
25, 2017, the Government moved for summary judgment on Ms.
Hawkins's FTCA claim or to dismiss her claim for lack of
subject matter jurisdiction.(See Mot.) The court now
addresses the Government's motion, which Ms. Hawkins
opposes. (See Resp.)
Government moves for summary judgment under Federal Rule of
Civil Procedure 56 on the basis that the FTCA's statute
of limitations bars Ms. Hawkins's claim. (Mot. at 1.) The
Government also argues that the court lacks subject matter
jurisdiction over Ms. Hawkins's FTCA claim because her
claim falls within the Federal Employees Compensation Act
(“FECA”), 5 U.S.C. § 8101 et seq.,
which compensates federal employees for injuries they sustain
on the job. (Id. at 1-2.) Because the Government
raises the court's subject matter jurisdiction, the court
first analyzes that issue. See Potter v. Hughes, 546 F.3d
1051, 1061 (9th Cir. 2008) (“[F]ederal courts normally
must resolve questions of subject matter jurisdiction before
reaching other threshold issues.”).
Motion to Dismiss for Lack of Subject Matter