United States District Court, W.D. Washington, Seattle
ORDER GRANTING MOTION TO DISMISS FOR LACK OF SUBJECT
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. (Mot. (Dkt. # 36).) Plaintiff
Sabelita Hawkins opposes the Government’s motion.
(Resp. (Dkt. # 38).) 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
allegedly suffered as a result of workplace bullying at the
VA hospital at which she worked. (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 three years of workplace
bullying and a failed meeting to address that bullying.
(Compl. ¶¶ 4.4-4.5; Claim at 4.) After this
psychotic episode, Ms. Hawkins was admitted to
Swedish-Edmonds Hospital for observation on October 22, 2011.
(Id. ¶ 4.5.) After her release, Ms. Hawkins
followed up with resident physician Daniel Doan at the
Veterans Hospital Women’s Clinic on October 26, 2011.
(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”).) 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.)
November 16, 2011, Ms. Hawkins followed up with Dr. Doan 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.; Claim at
Hawkins filed two relevant administrative claims: (1) an FTCA
claim to the VA for the doctors’ alleged malpractice in
treating Ms. Hawkins after the workplace psychotic episode
(see Claim at 2, 4-5); and (2) a claim under the
Federal Employees Compensation Act (“FECA”), 5
U.S.C. § 8101 et seq., for the PTSD, psychotic
disorder, and depression that Ms. Hawkins alleges she
suffered at work as a result of workplace bullying
(see Sykes Decl. (Dkt. # 40) ¶ 4, Ex. B
(“FECA Claim”) at 1-2).
Hawkins filed her FTCA claim with the VA on October 24, 2013.
(See Claim at 2.) The VA denied that 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.)
Hawkins’s FECA claim proceeded at a much slower pace.
Ms. Hawkins filed that claim on October 23, 2014.
(See 7/25/17 Johnson Decl. (Dkt. # 20) ¶ 3, Ex.
E (“Hawkins Dep.”) at 75:23-79:12 (stating that
Ms. Hawkins filed her FECA claim with the VA on October 23,
2014); FECA Claim at 2 (identifying received date of October
23, 2014).) Although Ms. Hawkins filed her FECA claim in
October 2014, the Department of Labor Office of
Workers’ Compensation Program (“OWCP”) did
not begin processing Ms. Hawkins’s claim until October
2017. (See 6/21/19 Johnson Decl. (Dkt.
# 37) ¶ 2, Ex. A (“Notice of Decision”) at 1
(stating that the Department of Labor sent Ms. Hawkins a
notice of claim deficiencies on October 4, 2017).) On April
27, 2018, the OWCP issued a Notice of Decision denying Ms.
Hawkins’s claim. (See Notice of Decision.) The
OWCP stated that it had considered evidence submitted by Ms.
Hawkins and concluded that “the evidence does not
establish that you were injured in the performance of a duty
as required for coverage under [FECA].” (See Id
. at 2-4.) The OWCP found that there was insufficient
evidence to establish workplace bullying or any error or
abusive action by the VA in administering the meeting to
address Ms. Hawkins’s claims of bullying. (See Id
. at 3-5.) As such, Ms. Hawkins had failed to establish
“that [she] sustained an emotional condition that arose
during the course of employment and within the scope of
compensable work factors as defined by the FECA.”
(Id. at 5.) The Government alleges that Ms. Hawkins
did not exercise her right to appeal the OWCP’s
decision, and Ms. Hawkins does not dispute that claim.
(See Mot. at 4; Resp. at 1-4.)