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Kraft v. Office of Chief Counsel North Atlantic District-North

United States District Court, D. Delaware

March 13, 2018

ALFONSO DOUGLAS KRAFT, Plaintiff,
v.
OFFICE OF CHIEF COUNSEL DIVISION OF VETERANS AFFAIRS NORTH ATLANTIC DISTRICT-NORTH, Defendant.

          Alfonso Douglas Kraft, Smyrna, Delaware; Pro Se Plaintiff.

          David C. Weiss, United States Attorney and Laura D. Hatcher, Assistant United States Attorney, District of Delaware, Wilmington, Delaware; Counsel for Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          ANDREWS, U.S. District Judge

         Plaintiff Alfonso Douglas Kraft, who proceeds pro se, filed this action on December 14, 2016. (D.I. 1). Before the Court is Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment.[1] (D.I. 6). Briefing on the matter is complete.

         BACKGROUND

         On February 2, 2016, Plaintiff filed an action in this Court against the VA Hospital in Elsmere, Delaware, Kraft v. VA Hosp., Civ. No. 16-060-SLR ("Civ. No. 16-060-SLR"). The Complaint, dated February 1, 2016, was filed on a Standard Form 95 - Claim for Damage, Injury, or Death ("SF-95"), a form used to lodge an administrative tort claim against a federal agency under the Federal Tort Claims Act ("FTCA"). Civ. No. 16-060-SLR at D.I. 1. It alleged Plaintiff was injured on February 4, 2014, during his hospitalization at the VA Hospital. Civ. No. 16-060-SLR was dismissed on May 31, 2016, after Plaintiff failed to comply with an order to file a responsive brief to the VA Hospital's motion to dismiss. See Civ. No. 16-060-SLR at D.I. 7.

         Plaintiff commenced this action on December 14, 2016. (D.I. 1). It appears that Plaintiff reasserts his claim for injuries as a result of the February 4, 2014 incident at the VA Hospital pursuant to the FTCA, similar to the claim raised in Civ. No. 16-060-SLR.

         In support of its motion, Defendant filed the declaration of Paul L. Kranick whose duties include oversight and administration of tort claims filed against the United States Department of Veterans Affairs with the Philadelphia Office of District Counsel. (D.I. 6-1). Kranick reviewed the agency's administrative tort claim files which include any claims filed against the Wilmington VA Medical Center. (Id. at U 3). Kranick states that Plaintiff did not file an SF-95 for any alleged injury sustained at any time at the Wilmington VA Medical Center prior to filing the complaint in Civ. No. 16-060-SLR. (Id.) Nor did Plaintiff submit an SF-95 to the Department of Veterans Affairs once Civ. No. 16-060-SLR was dismissed on May 31, 2016. (Id.).

         On February 10, 2016, the United States Attorney's Office for the District of Delaware wrote to Plaintiff to advise him that it had learned from the Civ. No. 16-060-SLR Court docket that Plaintiff had filed an SF-95 form on February 2, 2016, and that it was docketed as a "Complaint." (D.I. 16 at Ex. A). The letter advised Plaintiff that he could serve the SF-95 on the VA by delivering it to the VA hospital in Elsmere, if he wished to initiate its administrative consideration of his claim, but that the SF-95 must be timely presented. (Id.). On an unknown date, but sometime after Plaintiff commenced Civ. No. 16-060-SLR on February 2, 2016, the United States Attorney's Office for the District of Delaware forwarded the SF-95 form (dated February 1, 2016) filed as the complaint in Civ. No. 16-060-SLR, to the United States Department of Justice, Civil Division, Torts Branch, Federal Tort Claims Act Staff in Washington, D.C. It received the SF-95 form on March 6, 2016. (D.I. 6-2). On April 7, 2016, the Civil Division Torts Branch of the U.S. Department of Justice sent Plaintiff a letter informing him that his "administrative tort claim dated February 1, 2016, which [he] submitted to the Department of Justice" had been forwarded to the Department of Veterans Affairs, the appropriate agency. (D.I. 6-2). The Department of Veterans Affairs received the letter on April 12, 2016. (See D.I. 6-1 at ¶ 4; 6-2). On May 3, 2016, the Department of Veterans Affairs acknowledged receipt of Plaintiffs administrative claim and advised Plaintiff that it would be processed under the provisions of the FTCA. (D.I. 8 at p.22). Plaintiff commenced this action on December 14, 2016.

         STANDARDS OF LAW

         "The court shall grant summary judgment if the movant shows that there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law." Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a). When determining whether a genuine issue of material fact exists, the court must view the evidence in the light most favorable to the non-moving party and draw all reasonable inferences in that party's favor. Scott v. Harris, 550 U.S. 372, 380 (2007); Wishkin v. Potter, 476 F.3d 180, 184 (3d Cir. 2007). A dispute is "genuine" only if the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the non-moving party. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, 477 U.S. 242, 247-49 (1986).

         DISCUSSION

         Defendant moves for summary judgment on the grounds that the claim is time-barred if Plaintiff seeks to recover for injuries he sustained in February 2014 when he was hospitalized at the VA Hospital. (D.I. 6). Plaintiff submitted his voluminous medical record in opposition to Defendant's motion and argues that the documents are verification that the VA Elsmere did not investigate his case correctly and gave an unjust ruling on his case. (D.I. 13, 14). Plaintiff states that he "sent all proper forms to them and they lied." (Id.) Plaintiff's opposition does not address whether he timely submitted his administrative claim.

         To the extent Plaintiff renews the claim for injuries he sustained while hospitalized at the VA Hospital in February 2014, the claim is governed by the FTCA, which allows a plaintiff to seek damages from the United States for certain torts committed by federal employees. See 28 U.S.C. §§ 1346(b), 2674, 2675(a). The FTCA requires a claimant to first file an administrative claim with the relevant federal agency and have his claim denied or deemed denied before the claimant is permitted to file suit in court. See 28 U.S.C. ยงยง 2674, 2675(a). The FTCA provides that "a tort claim against the United States shall be forever barred unless it is presented in writing to the appropriate Federal agency within two years after such claim accrues or unless ...


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