Liberty Nursing Rehab. Ctr.

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United States Court of Appeals, Fourth CircuitOct 2, 2008
294 Fed. Appx. 803 (4th Cir. 2008)

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No. 07-1667.

Submitted: March 28, 2008.

Decided: October 2, 2008.

On Petition for Review of an Order of the United States Department of Health and Human Services. (A-07-67).

Joseph L. Bianculli, Health Care Lawyers, PLC, Arlington, Virginia, for Petitioner. Peter D. Keisler, Assistant Attorney General, Daniel Meron, General Counsel, Howard H. Lewis, Acting Chief Counsel, Erica C. Matos, Assistant Regional Counsel, Atlanta, Georgia, for Respondents.

Before MOTZ, KING, and SHEDD, Circuit Judges.

Petition denied by unpublished PER CURIAM opinion.

Unpublished opinions are not binding precedent in this circuit.

Liberty Nursing and Rehabilitation Center-Mecklenburg ("Liberty"), a skilled nursing care facility, seeks review of a final decision of the Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services ("Secretary"). That decision affirmed an administrative law judge ("ALJ") decision upholding: (i) findings that Liberty failed to comply with Medicaid and Medicare program requirements; and (ii) the imposition of civil monetary penalties ("CMP") against Liberty for its noncompliance. We deny Liberty's petition for review.

We have jurisdiction to consider Liberty's petition pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1320a-7a (2000).

When the question before this court is whether an agency has properly interpreted and applied its own regulations, the reviewing court must give the agency's interpretation "substantial deference." See Thomas Jefferson, Univ. v. Shalala, 512 U.S. 504, 512, 114 S.Ct. 2381, 129 L.Ed.2d 405 (1994). This court must defer to the Secretary's reasonable interpretation of its regulations so long as it is not "plainly erroneous or inconsistent with the regulation[s]." See id. Moreover, this court will defer to the Secretary's findings of fact if they are "supported by substantial evidence on the record considered as a whole." See 42 U.S.C. § 1320a-7a(e) (2000). Substantial evidence is "evidence which a reasoning mind would accept as sufficient to support a particular conclusion. It consists of more than a mere scintilla of evidence but may be somewhat less than a preponderance." See Shively v. Heckler, 739 F.2d 987, 989 (4th Cir. 1984) (internal citation and quotation marks omitted).

We find the record contains evidence that a reasoning mind would accept as sufficient to support the Secretary's conclusion that Liberty did not comply with agency regulations. Accordingly, neither the ALJ nor the Secretary abused their discretion in upholding the imposition of CMPs. See 42 C.F.R. § 488.438(e) (2008). We therefore deny Liberty's petition for review. We dispense with oral argument because the facts and legal contentions are adequately presented in the materials before the court and argument would not aid the decisional process.

We reject Liberty's assertion that the Secretary lacks authority to issue citations for violations involving motor vehicles. Because 42 C.F.R. § 483.25(h)(1) (2008) speaks of the residents' environment, it is to be interpreted as broadly as is necessary to protect residents in all locations under the facility's control, including facility vehicles. It would be incongruous to hold that residents travel at their own risk when the facility to which they have entrusted their care transports them off-site.