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Garnett v. United States

United States District Court, D. Delaware

September 13, 2019

ROBIN GARNETT, Plaintiff,
v.
UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, Defendant

         Justice of the Peace Court of the State of Delaware in and for New Castle County CA.No.JP13-17-015538

          Robin Garnett, Newark, Delaware, Pro Se Plaintiff.

          David C. Weiss, United States Attorney, and Dylan J. Steinberg, Assistant United States Attorney, Wilmington, Delaware. Counsel for Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          STARK, U.S. DISTRICT JUDGE:

         I. INTRODUCTION

         Plaintiff Robin Garnett ("Plaintiff'), who proceeds pro se, filed this motor vehicle accident action in the justice of the Peace Court of the State of Delaware in and for New Castle County. The matter was removed on December 18, 2018. (D.I. 1)[1] Presently before the Court is Defendant's motion to dismiss. (D.I. 4) Plaintiff did not file a response to the motion.

         II. BACKGROUND

         The Complaint alleges that Joseph Howard Hall ("Hall"), an employee of the United States Postal Service, was negligent in the operation of a motor vehicle on December 5, 2017, and that Hall's negligence caused damage to Plaintiffs vehicle. (D.I. 1-1 at 3) After the matter was removed from State Court, this Court granted a motion to substitute the United States ("Defendant") as a defendant in place of Hall. (See D.I. 3, 5) Attached to the motion to substitute is the certification of United States Attorney David C. Weiss ("Weiss"), stating that Hall was acting within the scope of his employment as an employee of the United States Postal Service at the time of conduct alleged in the Complaint. (D.I. 3 at 1; D.I. 3-1 at 2) Thereafter, Defendant filed a motion to dismiss for lack of subject matter jurisdiction. (See D.I. 5) The motion is unopposed.

         III. LEGAL STANDARDS

         Rule 12(b)(1) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure permits the dismissal of an action for "lack of subject matter jurisdiction." A Rule 12(b)(1) motion may be treated as either a facial or factual challenge to the court's subject matter jurisdiction. See Constitution Party of Pa. v. Aichele, 757 F.3d 347, 357-58 (3d Cir. 2014). "In reviewing a facial attack, 'the court must only consider the allegations of the complaint and documents referenced therein and attached thereto, in the light most favorable to the plaintiff.'" Id. at 358 (quoting In re Schering Plough Corp. v. Intron, 678 F.3d 235, 243 (3d Cir. 2012)). In reviewing a factual attack, the court may consider evidence outside the pleadings. See Mortensen v. First Fed Sav. and Loan Ass'n, 549 F.2d 884, 891 (3d Cir. 1977).

         Defendant's motion presents a factual attack upon subject matter jurisdiction, as it argues that this Court lacks jurisdiction over the claims due to Plaintiffs failure to exhaust administrative remedies. In reviewing a factual challenge, the court "is free to weigh the evidence and satisfy itself as to the existence of its power to hear the case," even where disputed material facts exist Id. at 891. In a factual challenge, the plaintiff has the burden of persuasion to show that jurisdiction exists. Id.

         IV. DISCUSSION

         Defendant moves for dismissal of the Complaint on the grounds that Plaintiff failed to exhaust her administrative remedies, as such exhaustion is a requirement of the FTCA. (See D.I. 4) Defendant has submitted evidence (in the form of a declaration) that there is no record of an administrative claim presented by, or on behalf of, Plaintiff. (See id. at Ex. A)

         The FTCA provides that the United States shall be liable, to the same extent as a private individual, "for injury or loss of property, or personal injury or death caused by the negligent or wrongful act or omission of any employee of the Government while acting within the scope of his office or employment." 28 U.S.C. § 1346(b)(1); see also 28 U.S.C. § 2674. As a prerequisite to suit under the FTCA, a claim must first be presented to the federal agency, and be denied by the agency or be deemed to be denied. See 28 U.S.C. ยง 2675(a) ("An action shall not be instituted against the United States for money damages for injury or loss of property or personal injury... unless the claimant shall have ...


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