United States District Court, D. Nevada
BARBARA D. RICHARDSON, Plaintiffs,
U.S. DEPARTMENT OF HEALTH AND HUMAN SERVICES, et al., Defendants.
before the court is defendants United States Department of
Health and Human Services (“HHS”), HHS's
Center for Medicare & Medicaid Services
(“CMS”), Secretary Thomas E. Price, and the
United States of America's motion to dismiss. (ECF No.
17). Plaintiff Barbara D. Richardson (“plaintiff')
filed a response (ECF No. 25), to which defendants replied
(ECF No. 29).
before the court are defendants' motions for leave to
file additional authority in support of their reply. (ECF
Nos. 39, 42). Defendants filed exhibits to their motions for
leave to file additional authority. (ECF Nos. 40, 42).
brings this case in her capacity as liquidator of the estate
of Nevada Health Co-Op (“NHC”), a now defunct
health insurance company that formerly issued health
insurance plans on the health insurance marketplaces created
by the Affordable Care Act (“ACA”). (ECF No. 17).
Relying on the Administrative Procedure Act
(“APA”), plaintiff argues certain offsets were
improper because HHS failed to account for over $40 million
owed to NHC under section 1432 of the ACA. Id.
Defendants argue that plaintiff's complaint should be
dismissed because the Court of Federal Claims is the only
proper forum for plaintiff's challenge to HHS's
offsets. (ECF No. 29).
asserts that this court possesses jurisdiction pursuant to
the APA. (ECF No. 25). The APA waives the United States'
sovereign immunity in certain circumstances. However, the APA
waiver of sovereign immunity does not apply to claims: (1)
for money damages, 5 U.S.C. § 702; (2) seeking relief
which another statute expressly or impliedly forbids,
id.; or (3) for which an adequate remedy is
available elsewhere, id. § 704. Because the
three exceptions “function in the disjunctive[, ] the
application of any one is enough to deny a district court
jurisdiction under the APA.” Suburban Mortg.
Assocs., Inc. v. U.S. Dep't of Hous. & Urban
Dev., 480 F.3d 1116, 1126 (Fed. Cir. 2007). Plaintiff
argues that because it seeks injunctive relief and cannot
find an adequate remedy elsewhere, the United States'
sovereign immunity is waived in this case. (ECF No. 25).
Defendants argue that because plaintiff's claim
ultimately seeks monetary compensation from the United States
based on a federal-state ACA program, jurisdiction over the
claim lies exclusively with the Court of Federal
Claims. (ECF No. 17).
Tucker Act grants the Claims Court exclusive jurisdiction
over actions against the United States for monetary damages
in excess of $10, 000. Marshall Leasing, Inc. v. United
States, 893 F.2d 1096, 1099 (9th Cir. 1990) (citing 28
U.S.C. § 1346(a)(2)). “A party may not avoid the
[Court of Federal Claims'] jurisdiction by framing an
action against the federal government that appears to seek
only equitable relief when the party's real effort is to
obtain [money] damages.” Marshall Leasing, 893
F.2d at 1099; see also Suburban Mortg. Assocs., Inc. v.
U.S. Dep't of Hous. & Urban Dev., 480 F.3d 1116,
1126 (Fed. Cir. 2007) (“If [a] suit is at base a claim
for money, and the relief available through the Court of
Federal Claims under the Tucker Act-a money judgment-will
provide an adequate remedy, the inquiry is at an end. There
is no need to address the § 702 ‘money damage'
limitation because § 704 precludes adjudication under
the APA.”); Christopher Vill., L.P. v. United
States, 360 F.3d 1319, 1328 (Fed. Cir. 2004) (“[a]
party may not circumvent the [Court of Federal Claims']
exclusive jurisdiction by framing a complaint in the district
court as one seeking injunctive, declaratory or mandatory
relief where the thrust of the suit is to obtain money from
the United States.”).
relief available for [plaintiff's] claims in the Court of
Federal Claims is ‘adequate' [if] it can provide,
in substance, all of the [the plaintiff's] requested
relief.” Kanemoto v. Reno, 41 F.3d 641, 646
(Fed. Cir. 1994). Ninth Circuit courts have consistently
refused jurisdiction over claims when “the actual
relief resulting from [review of the equitable claim] would
be monetary.” McKeel v. Islamic Republic of
Iran, 722 F.2d 582, 590 (9th Cir. 1983), cert. denied,
469 U.S. 880, 105 S.Ct. 243, 83 L.Ed.2d 182 (1984); see
also Bakersfield City School Dist. v. Boyer, 610 F.2d
621, 628 (9th Cir. 1979).
district court recently ruled on a nearly identical fact
pattern to the one presented here. See Farmer v. United
States, No. 3:17-0956, 2018 WL 1365797 (D.SC. Mar. 16,
2018). In Farmer, liquidators of South
Carolina's Consumer's Choice Health Insurance Company
brought an action against the United States Department of
Health and Human Services (and related parties) seeking
declaratory relief and an injunction. Id. at *2. The
government filed a motion to dismiss for lack of subject
matter jurisdiction, arguing that the Court of Federal Claims
possessed exclusive jurisdiction to hear the action.
Id. at 2, 3. The court held that while the
“liquidators have packaged their requests for relief in
equitable terms, ” they “are actually requesting
a money judgment from the government.” Id. at
*6. Therefore, the court held that jurisdiction over the
action lied “exclusively in the Court of Federal
Claims.” Id. at *7.
although plaintiff asserts her claim is one for declaratory
and injunctive relief, she is “actually requesting a
money judgment from the government.” Id. at
*6. Plaintiff alleges that HHS failed to pay NHC amounts due
under the Affordable Care Act's 3Rs programs when the
government withheld funds and offset them against NHC's
debts. (ECF No. 29). Challenges to these offsets are
fundamentally claims for monetary relief. See
McKeel, 722 F.2d at 590. Therefore, the Court of Federal
Claims possesses exclusive jurisdiction over the action.
See Farmer, 2018 WL 1365797, at *7.
argues that it cannot obtain the full remedy requested in the
Court of Federal Claims because a monetary award would not
prevent future offsets. (ECF No. 25). However, in the event
the liquidators prevail in the Court of Federal Claims, the
principles of res judicata would prevent the government from
any further allegedly unlawful acts. See McBride Cotton
& Cattle Corp. v. Vietnam, 116 F. App'x 89, 91
(9th Cir. 2004) (“In the event of success, [plaintiff]
could receive a refund of all unauthorized [setoffs] and the
[government] would be prohibited from [setting off] further
payments under the principle of res judicata.”).
Therefore, plaintiff can obtain an adequate remedy in the
Court of Federal Claims.
complaint ultimately seeks monetary relief that is available
through the Court of Federal Claims. Therefore, jurisdiction
over her claim lies exclusively in the Court of Federal
Claims under the Tucker Act. Accordingly, the court will
dismiss plaintiff's complaint for lack of subject matter
IT IS HEREBY ORDERED, ADJUDGED, and DECREED that
defendants' motion to dismiss (ECF No. 17) ...