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Scarberry v. United States

United States District Court, E.D. Michigan, Southern Division

January 20, 2015

CYNTHIA SUE SCARBERRY, Plaintiff,
v.
UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, Defendant.

ORDER GRANTING DEFENDANT'S MOTION TO DISMISS (Doc. 6) AND DISMISSING CASE

AVERN COHN, District Judge.

I. INTRODUCTION

This is a tort case under the Federal Tort Claims Act, 28 U.S.C. ยง 2671, et seq. Cynthia Sue Scarberry (Plaintiff) is suing the United States of America (Defendant), alleging that a social worker employed by Defendant, who had previously acted as Plaintiff's counselor, engaged in a sexual relationship with Plaintiff's significant other. Plaintiff claims that because of the social worker's negligence, as will be described, Plaintiff's pre-existing mental and physical disorders were aggravated and she suffered additional injuries.

Now before the Court is Defendant's Motion to Dismiss (Doc. 6). For the reasons that follow, Defendant's motion will be granted.

II. BACKGROUND

Because the Court addresses Plaintiff's claims in response to the Defendant's Motion to Dismiss, the facts alleged in the Complaint (Doc. 1) are accepted as true and are summarized below.

A.

Plaintiff is an Air Force veteran who suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder, depression (PTSD), and military sexual trauma. From October 27, 2009, through April 21, 2010, Plaintiff received treatment for her condition at the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) Medical Center in Ann Arbor from VA counselor, Cecily Garrity.[1]

For an unspecified period of time, Plaintiff had a romantic relationship with Eric Otto Spalding, Sr. In November 2011-more than a year after Garrity's treatment of Plaintiff ended-Plaintiff "became aware of a sexual relationship" between Garrity and Spalding. Plaintiff does not specify when the relationship between Garrity and Spalding occurred. Neither does she allege that she and Garrity discussed any romantic relationship with Spalding during the course of her treatment, nor that Garrity's relationship with Spalding occurred on VA property or during Garrity's work hours.

B.

Plaintiff was adjudicated legally incompetent on August 24, 2012. The Wayne County Probate court appointed plaintiff a legal guardian on the same day. The guardianship was terminated on November 13, 2013. Plaintiff's administrative tort claim was received by the VA on October 31, 2013. Plaintiff's legal guardian did not sign plaintiff's administrative tort claim.

Plaintiff now claims that Garrity's negligence and breach of the standard of care caused the aggravation of her preexisting conditions, including PTSD, major depressive affected disorder, paranoia, ability to trust, and somatization.

III. STANDARD OF REVIEW

A motion to dismiss pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) tests the sufficiency of a complaint. To survive a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss, the complaint's "factual allegations must be enough to raise a right to relief above the speculative level on the assumption that all of the allegations in the complaint are true." Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombley, 550 U.S.544, 545 (2007). See also Ass'n of Cleveland Fire Fighters v. City of Cleveland, Ohio, 502 F.3d 545, 548 (6th Cir.2007). The court is "not bound to accept as true a legal conclusion couched as a factual allegation." Aschcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (internal quotation marks and citation omitted). Moreover, "[o]nly a complaint that states a plausible claim for relief survives a motion to dismiss." Id. at 679 Thus, "a court considering a motion to dismiss can choose to begin by identifying pleadings that, because they are no more than conclusions, are not entitled to the assumption of truth. While legal conclusions can provide the framework of a complaint, they must be supported by factual allegations. When there are well-pleaded factual allegations, a court should assume their veracity and then ...


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