United States District Court, E.D. Pennsylvania
Charles Talbert brings this civil action, pursuant to 42
U.S.C. § 1983, against the Pennsylvania Department of
Public Welfare (DP W) and DP W employee, Tina Wise, based on
the fact that DPW recovered a portion of his recent legal
settlement. Talbert seeks leave to proceed in forma
pauperis. The Court will grant Talbert leave to proceed
in forma pauperis and dismiss his complaint.
he was a pretrial detainee within the Philadelphia Prison
System, Talbert was injured in the course of an ileostomy
reversal surgery. The City of Philadelphia apparently
acquired funds from DPW to cover the costs of Talbert's
approximately thirty-day stay at the hospital. (Compl. ¶
8.) The complaint and letters attached to the complaint
reflect that DPW covered $74, 853.04 of Talbert's medical
filed a medical malpractice lawsuit against the Albert
Einstein Medical Center and the doctor who performed his
surgery. Ms. Wise sent a letter to the defendants'
attorney informing her that, in accordance with 62 Pa. Cons.
Stat. § 1409, DPW had "a first claim on any
judgment, award, or settlement to insure the reimbursement of
the Medicaid Program." Talbert sent a letter to Ms. Wise
objecting to DPW's interest. He subsequently settled his
medical malpractice case for a total of $7, 500, half of
which was allocated to DPW.
subsequently filed the instant case, pursuant to 42 U.S.C.
§ 1983, against DPW and Wise because he believes that
they "abused their State authority, to unlawfully
threaten, and take money" from his settlement. (Compl.
¶ 14.) He seeks damages.
STANDARD OF REVIEW
motion to proceed in forma pauperis is granted
because it appears that he is not capable of paying the fees
to commence this civil action. Accordingly, 28 U.S.C. §
1915(e)(2)(B)(ii) requires the Court to dismiss the complaint
if it fails to state a claim. To survive dismissal, the
complaint must contain "sufficient factual matter,
accepted as true, to state a claim to relief that is
plausible on its face." Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556
U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (quotations omitted). "[M]ere
conclusory statements do not suffice." Id.
The Court may also consider exhibits attached to the
complaint. Buck v. Hampton Twp. Sch. Dist., 452 F.3d
256, 260 (3d Cir. 2006). As Talbert is proceeding pro
se, the Court construes his allegations liberally.
Higgs v. Att'y Gen., 655 F.3d 333, 339 (3d Cir.
state a claim under § 1983, a plaintiff must allege the
violation of a right secured by the Constitution and laws of
the United States, and must show that the alleged deprivation
was committed by a person acting under color of state
law." West v. Atkins, 487 U.S. 42, 48 (1988).
It is not clear what constitutional violation Talbert
believes occurred here. Accordingly, the Court will construe
the complaint as raising a procedural due process claim based
on DPW's recovery of a portion of Talbert's
settlement proceeds. "Fundamentally, procedural due
process requires notice and an opportunity to be heard"
in a meaningful time and manner. Mancini v. Northampton
Cnty., 836 F.3d 308, 315 (3d Cir. 2016) (citing
Mathews v. Eldridge, 424 U.S. 319, 333 (1976)).
law permits DPW to be reimbursed from a settlement when it
has paid medical costs related to the underlying claim as
long as DPW's recovery does not exceed half of the
Medicaid beneficiary's recovery after certain deductions.
See 62 Pa. Cons. Stat. § 1409; Shaffer-Doan
ex rel. Doan v. Com. Dep't of Pub. Welfare, 960 A.2d
500, 506 (Pa. Commw. Ct. 2008) ("The overarching purpose
of [The Fraud and Abuse Control Act] is to authorize DPW to
obtain compensation from third parties for benefits DPW paid
on behalf of a person injured by the third parties.");
see also Tristani ex rel. Karnes v. Richman, 652
F.3d 360, 370 & 377-78 (3d Cir. 2011) (holding that DPW
may legally assert a lien against a Medicaid
beneficiary's recovery relating to medical costs and that
Pennsylvania's allocation scheme is lawful because
beneficiaries have the ability to appeal). Letters attached
to the complaint reflect that Talbert received notice of
DPW's lien before he settled the case. If Talbert sought
to challenge the lien or the amount DPW recovered, he could
have litigated the matter in state court or appealed to the
Bureau of Hearings and Appeals. See 62 Pa. Cons.
Stat. § 1409; 55 Pa. Code § 259.3. Nothing in the
complaint suggests that those procedures are inadequate or
that Talbert even attempted to avail himself of them.
Accordingly, Talbert has not stated a due process claim.
Talbert's claims against DPW also fail because, as a
department of the Commonwealth, DPW is entitled to Eleventh
Amendment immunity and, in any event, is not a
"person" for purposes of § 1983. See Will
v. Mich. Dep't of State Police, 491 U.S. 58, 65-66
(1989); Betts v. New Castle Youth Dev. Ctr., 621
F.3d 249, 254-55 (3d Cir. 2010).
foregoing reasons, the Court will dismiss Talbert's
complaint. The Court will give Talbert leave to file an
amended complaint in light of the liberal standard governing
amendment. An ...