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Lenius v. United States

United States District Court, W.D. Washington, Seattle

July 19, 2019

ASHLEY LENIUS, Plaintiff,
v.
UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, Defendant.

          ORDER GRANTING DEFENDANT'S MOTION TO DISMISS

          BARBARA J. ROTHSTEIN UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         I. INTRODUCTION

         Plaintiff Ashley Lenius brings this complaint under the Federal Tort Claims Act ("FTCA"), alleging that she is entitled to money damages as compensation for the negligence of U.S. Marine Corps employee Thomas Bell. See Compl, Dkt. No. 1-1 at ¶¶ 3.1, 4. Currently before the court is Defendant United States' motion to dismiss for lack of subject matter jurisdiction pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(1). Dkt. No. 5 at 1-2. The United States argues that Plaintiffs claim is barred because it was not properly presented to the appropriate agency as required by 28 U.S.C. § 2675(a) and that equitable relief is not appropriate. See Dkt. No. 14 at 2, 5. Having reviewed the motion, the opposition thereto, the record of this case, and the relevant legal authorities, the Court grants the motion to dismiss.

         II. BACKGROUND

         On December 17, 2015, Staff Sergeant Thomas Bell, an on-duty recruiter for the U.S. Marine Corps, was driving on a city street in Kent, Washington. Dkt. No. 13 at 2, 17. Plaintiff alleges that Bell sideswiped her vehicle as he attempted to change into a lane in which she was established. Compl, Dkt. No. 1-1 at ¶ 2.1. Police were called to the scene and wrote a police report charging Bell with improper lane usage. Dkt. 13, Ex. 2. at 17. Plaintiff claims that she was injured in the accident and that her car was totaled. Id. at 3.

         A month after the collision, Plaintiff, through counsel, sent a cover letter attaching a Standard Form 95 ["Claim for Damage, Injury, or Death"] ("SF 95") and police report by First Class Mail to the address of the Armed Forces Career Center where Bell was employed. Dkt. No. 13 at 2-3. The United States asserts that this was the improper location for the SF 95 to have been mailed and that it should have gone to the Marine Corps or the Department of the Navy. Dkt. No. 14 at 2.

         Plaintiff alleges that no federal agency ever responded, and the U.S. Postal Service never returned her claim. Because 18 C.F.R. § 14.2(a) requires that a claim served on an incorrect federal agency should be transferred to the appropriate agency, the Head of the Tort Claims Branch for the Department of the Navy, Randall Russell, caused a search to be made of the records maintained in the Office of the Judge Advocate General of the Navy and the Tort Claims Unit in Norfolk, Virginia, the locations to where the SF 95 should have been mailed. Russell submitted a declaration that he failed to find Plaintiffs FTC A claim at those locations. Dkt. No. 6 at 1-2.[1]

         Plaintiff filed the instant action nearly three years after allegedly mailing her claim. Compl., Dkt. No. 1-1. Plaintiff claims that she in entitled to relief under the FTCA, alleging that Bell was negligent when he caused the accident. She seeks damages for personal injuries, medical special damages, pain and suffering, and other damages, past, present, and future, in amounts to be proven at the time of trial. Compl., Dkt. No. 1-1 at ¶ 3.1.

         The United States now moves to dismiss this case pursuant to Rule 12(b)(1), arguing that Plaintiff never presented an administrative claim to the appropriate agency and, thus, failed to exhaust her administrative remedies before suit. Dkt. No. 5.

         III. LEGAL STANDARDS

         A. Rule 12(b)(1) motion to dismiss standard

         In this Rule 12(b)(1) motion to dismiss for lack of subject matter jurisdiction.[2] Safe Air for Everyone v. Meyer, 373 F.3d 1035, 1040 (9th Cir. 2004). In this 12(b)(1), The United States I challenges the contention that the appropriate agency was presented with Plaintiffs claim.

         In resolving such a challenge, the Court may review evidence beyond the complaint. Savage v. Glendale Union High Sck, 343 F.3d 1036, 1039 n. 2 (9th Cir. 2003). The court "need not presume the truthfulness of plaintiff s allegations." Id. at 1039 n.2. The plaintiff bears the burden of proving by a "preponderance of the evidence" that the requirements for subject matter jurisdiction have been met and must support her jurisdictional allegations with "competent proof." Leite v. Crane Co., 749 F.3d 1117, 1122 (9th Cir. 2014).

         B. The ...


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