United States District Court, E.D. Washington
ORDER GRANTING MOTION TO DISMISS
THOMAS O. RICE, District Judge.
BEFORE THE COURT is Defendant's Motion to Dismiss (ECF No. 11). Dustin Deissner represents Plaintiff. Vanessa R. Waldref represents Defendant. This matter was submitted for consideration without oral argument. The Court has reviewed the completed briefing and the record and files herein, and is fully informed.
On January 3, 2011, Plaintiff suffered injuries when she slipped on ice outside a United States Post Office building. ECF No. 1 at ¶ II(A). On February 1, 2011, Plaintiff's counsel sent a letter to the Postal Service indicating that Plaintiff had slipped on the ice and requesting the Postal Service to have its insurance carriers contact Plaintiff's counsel. ECF No. 11-1 Ex. A (Arstad declaration). Steven Arstad, a Postal Service tort claim coordinator, responded on February 7, 2011, and notified Plaintiff's counsel that proper consideration of the claim required a completed Standard Form (SF) 95 claim form, which Arstad enclosed therein. ECF No. 11-1 Ex B. The letter also directed counsel's attention "to the instructions on the reverse side of the claim form" and instructed counsel to "[c]omplete all sections of the claim form." Id. The letter further indicated that "[v]alid claims must be received within two years of the accident date to be considered." Id.
Plaintiff's counsel replied by letter on March 11, 2011, and enclosed a SF 95 claim form. ECF Nos. 1-1 at 1; 11-1 Ex. D; 14 at ¶ 2. The claim form was signed by Plaintiff, but undated. ECF No. 1-1 at 1. Box 12b of the form, in which Plaintiff was to indicate the amount of the claim for personal injury, stated: "unknown." ECF Nos. 1-1 at 1; 14 at ¶ 3. Box 12d, in which Plaintiff was to indicate the total amount for her claim, was left blank. ECF No. 1-1 at 1. On March 14, 2011, Arstad replied:
This is in regard to the claim filed pursuant to the Federal Tort Claims Act.
The Claim submitted is incomplete as a sum certain (exact dollar amount) has not been specified (see attached copy). This claim is therefore invalid. Please refer to the instructions on the reverse of the form.
If your client is still treating for injury please wait until treatment has concluded to file this claim. At that time, please complete a new form SF 95 "Claim for Damage, Injury or Death" being certain to complete all boxes and indicating amounts on line 12 including a "Sum Certain" in box 12d and return to this office for processing.
In the event you have any questions or need assistance in completing the form, please telephone me at the number listed below.
ECF Nos. 11-1 Ex. E; 13-2; 14 at ¶ 4.
Plaintiff did not file a completed SF 95 claim form until August 16, 2013. ECF No. 14 at ¶ 6. The Postal Service denied the claim on May 22, 2014. Id. at ¶ 7. Plaintiff filed a complaint in this Court on July 15, 2014, seeking damages under the Federal Tort Claims Act (FTCA). ECF No. 1.
Defendant seeks dismissal under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6), alleging that Plaintiff's claim is precluded by the FTCA's two-year statute of limitations. ECF No. 11. Plaintiff contends, first, that her claim was filed on March 11, 2011, and that the subsequent filing merely represented an amendment to that claim. ECF No. 12 at 3-4. Second, Plaintiff contends that "[u]nder basic principles of equity, the actions of the Post Office would comprise waiver, or compel estoppel to assert limitations under these circumstances." Id. at 4-5.
"A statute-of-limitations defense, if apparent from the face of the complaint, may properly be raised in a motion to dismiss." Seven Arts Filmed Entm't Ltd. v. Content Media Corp. PLC, 733 F.3d 1251, 1254 (9th Cir. 2013) (internal quotation marks omitted). Dismissal of a complaint on a statute-of-limitations defense is proper if "it appears beyond doubt that the plaintiff can prove no set of facts that would establish the timeliness of the claim" and all factual questions are ...