United States District Court, W.D. Washington, Tacoma
ORDER GRANTING DEFENDANT'S MOTION TO DISMISS AND
DISMISSING REMAINING CLAIMS FOR LACK OF JURISDICTION
BENJAMIN H. SETTLE, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
matter comes before the Court on the United States of
America's (“Government”) motion to dismiss.
Dkt. 37. The Court has considered the pleadings filed in
support of and in opposition to the motions and the remainder
of the file and hereby grants the motion. The Court also
dismisses Plaintiffs' claims against Defendants Rita and
Ward Willets (the “Willets”) because it lacks
August 12, 2016, Plaintiffs Vincent Schwent and Debra Shapiro
Schwent (“Plaintiffs”) filed a complaint against
the Government and the Willets. Dkt. 1. On August 17, 2016,
Plaintiffs filed an amended complaint for trespass, nuisance,
constitutional tort, and breach of easement agreement. Dkt.
7. Plaintiffs requested compensatory damages, injunctive
relief, and attorney's fees and costs. Id.
October 20, 2016, the Federal Defendants moved to substitute
the United States of America for the previously named Federal
Defendants, to dismiss all non-tort claims, to dismiss the
named Federal Defendants, and to dismiss the Plaintiffs'
requests for injunctive relief. Dkt. 15. On October 28, 2016,
the Willets filed a motion to dismiss. Dkt. 17.
January 17, 2016, the Court entered an order granting the
Government's motion to dismiss. Dkt. 26 at 5. The Court
dismissed Plaintiffs' claims against the Government on
the basis that it lacked jurisdiction because the claims
exceeded the applicable $10, 000 jurisdictional cap.
Id. The Court also granted Plaintiffs leave to amend
because a claim could be stated if the complaint were amended
to limit damages to $10, 000. Id. In the same order,
the Court denied the Willets' motion to dismiss. Dkt. 26
August 24, 2017, Plaintiffs filed another amended complaint.
Dkt. 36. In this most recent amended complaint, Plaintiffs
bring claims against the Willits for trespass by waters and
nuisance. Id. at 6. Additionally, Plaintiffs name
the Government as “a necessary party under [Fed. R.
Civ. P.] 19 as the easement holder such that any remedy other
than or in addition to compensation that this court might
order will require the concurrence of the United States . . .
.” Id. at 2.
September 1, 2017, the Government again moved for dismissal.
Dkt. 37. On September 20, 2017, Plaintiffs responded. Dkt.
38. On September 29, 2017, the Government replied. Dkt. 39.
October 2013, Plaintiffs purchased property adjacent to the
Willets' property. Dkt. 36 at 3. After the 2014-2015
winter, a field on Plaintiffs' property began to flood.
Id. Plaintiffs claim that the excess water is coming
from the Willets' property. Id. After
investigation, Plaintiffs discovered that the Government,
through the Department of Agriculture, holds a conservation
easement over portions of the Willets' property and that
this portion of the property contains a beaver colony with
numerous beaver dams. Id. at 4. Plaintiffs claim
that the excessive water coming from the beaver dams acts as
a nuisance, establishes trespass by nuisance, and violates
the easement agreement. Id. at 4- 5.
Plaintiffs have omitted any express reference to the Takings
Clause in their amended complaint, they nonetheless name the
Government as a necessary party on the basis that, in order
to secure the requested relief, it will be necessary to
obtain an order enforceable against the Government for the
purpose of preventing the further deprivation of their rights
in a property. Dkt. 36 at 2; Dkt. 38 at 3-4. This amounts to
a takings claim, and “neither injunctive nor
declaratory relief is available for a takings claim against
the United States.” Bay View, Inc. v. Ahtna,
Inc., 105 F.3d 1281, 1286 n. 6 (9th Cir. 1997).
Furthermore, as already discussed in the Court's previous
orders, the Court lacks jurisdiction to hear Plaintiffs'
takings claim because the amount in controversy exceeds 10,
000 dollars. 28 U.S.C. § 1346(a)(2). McGuire v.
United States, 550 F.3d 903, 910-11 (9th Cir. 2008). To
the extent Plaintiffs seeks a judgment that may be enforced
against the Government for use of its property resulting in
an allegedly unlawful taking of their property, jurisdiction
lies in the Court of Federal Claims, not here. 28 U.S.C.
the Court dismisses without prejudice Plaintiffs' claims
against the Willets. “If the court determines at any
time that it lacks subject-matter jurisdiction, the court
must dismiss the action.” Fed.R.Civ.P.
12(h)(3) (emphasis added). See also Snell v. Cleveland,
Inc., 316 F.3d 822, 826 (9th Cir. 2002) (“Federal
Rule of Civil Procedure 12(h)(3) provides that a court may
raise the question of subject matter jurisdiction, sua
sponte, at any time during the pendency of the action .
. . .”). Plaintiffs' claims against the Willets
arise exclusively under Washington State law, see
Dkt. 36 at 6, and Plaintiffs have failed to provide a
jurisdictional basis for pursuing them in this Court.