United States District Court, W.D. Louisiana, Lake Charles Division
TIMOTHY L. CHANDLER
UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, ET AL.
MORGAN UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
the court is a Motion to Dismiss (Rec. Doc. 70) filed by the
defendants, the United States of America (“the
government”) and Nathaniel Greene, Sr. The plaintiff
Timothy Chandler filed a Motion for Hearing (Rec. Doc. 76).
For the following reasons, the Motion to Dismiss (Rec. Doc.
70) will be GRANTED, and the Motion for Hearing (Rec. Doc.
76) will be DENIED AS MOOT.
FACTS & PROCEDURAL HISTORY
was an E4 specialist in the United States Army who was
stationed at Fort Polk after returning from his deployment in
Afghanistan. (Rec. Doc. 74-11). At Fort Polk, he and his unit
went through Warrior Adventure Quest (WAQ) training. This
training is designed to help returning soldiers transition
from combat environments into “home life.” (Rec.
Doc. 70-6). On Thursday, January 19, 2012, in line with this
transition training program, Chandler and his unit were
required to participate in a mandatory “fun day”
at the base's Morale Welfare & Recreation (MWR)
facility. The United States owns and operates the MWR
facility, and Nathaniel Greene, Sr., a civilian, maintains
it. (Rec. Doc. 74-4 at p. 1, ¶¶ 1-2). The day was
mandatory for the attending soldiers who were required to
report before the event and were only released after a
mandatory formation at the end of the day. (Rec. Docs. 70-9,
74-6). The officer-in-charge of the event was responsible for
ensuring “100 percent accountability of all
soldiers…as well as…administer[ing]
safety.” (Rec. Doc. 70-5 at p. 3). This included a
walk-through of the facility before the event. (Rec. Doc.
74-6 at p. 10). Civilian family members and friends were also
invited to the fun day.
Thursday, the soldiers reported for a mandatory
accountability formation at 6:00 A.M., and the soldiers were
released from physical training. The commanding officer
instructed them to report back at 9:00 A.M., so that the unit
could go to the MWR facility for the fun day. (Rec. Doc. 70-4
at p. 5). During the fun day, the soldiers were allowed to
wear civilian clothes, and they were free to choose from
several recreational activities, such as archery, paintball,
rock climbing, and grilling. The plaintiff was invited to
join a paintball game that consisted of both civilians and
soldiers. During the paintball game, Chandler injured his
knee on an object protruding from the ground.
filed suit against the government and Greene under the
Federal Torts Claim Act (FTCA), arguing that his knee injury
was caused by the defendants' negligence. (Rec. Doc. 1).
Shortly after, the government moved to dismiss the suit,
arguing that the court lacked subject matter jurisdiction
under the Feres doctrine. (Rec. Doc. 11). When the
court decided the motion, discovery had been very limited.
The court denied the motion to dismiss, by accepting the
plaintiff's argument that the injuries arose out of a
purely voluntary and recreational activity. (Rec. Doc. 36).
The parties conducted discovery for several months, and then,
the defendants filed a re-urged Motion to Dismiss, again
arguing that the court does not have subject matter
jurisdiction under the Feres doctrine. (Rec. Doc.
70). The defendants' Motion to Dismiss also argues that
the plaintiff is barred from bringing the claim under
Louisiana's Recreational Use Immunity Statutes. Because
the court finds that the evidence uncovered through discovery
shows that the suit is barred under the Feres
doctrine, the court does not reach the issue of whether
Louisiana's Recreational Use Immunity Statutes apply.
LAW & ANALYSIS
can move to dismiss a case for lack of subject matter
jurisdiction under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(1).
When deciding a motion to dismiss a case for lack of subject
matter jurisdiction, the court can consider: (1) the
complaint alone; (2) the complaint supplemented by undisputed
facts; or (3) the complaint supplemented by undisputed facts
plus the court's resolution of disputed facts.
Robinson v. TCI/US W. Commc'ns Inc., 117 F.3d
900, 904 (5th Cir. 1997) (citations omitted). Here, because
both parties have conducted extensive discovery, the court
will decide the 12(b)(1) motion using the complaint and the
evidence provided by the defendants and plaintiff.
the Feres doctrine, the government cannot be held
liable under the FTCA for injuries that are incident to
military service. Feres v. United States, 340 U.S.
135, 146 (1950). If the Feres doctrine applies, the
court does not have subject matter jurisdiction over the case
and must dismiss it. Stanley v. Cent. Intelligence
Agency, 639 F.2d 1146, 1157 (5th Cir. 1981). When
determining whether the injury is incident to service, the
court should consider “whether the suit requires the
civilian court to second-guess military decisions, and
whether the suit might impair essential military
discipline.” Regan v. Starcraft Marine, LLC,
524 F.3d 627, 635 (5th Cir. 2008) (quoting United States
v. Shearer, 473 U.S. 52, 57 (1985)). “[I]f a claim
is based on an injury that was incident to service and if
resolving the claim also would demand second-guessing of
military judgments, ” the court should apply the
Feres doctrine and bar suit. Id. at 636.
Keeping this guiding principle in mind, the Fifth Circuit
analyzes three factors to determine whether Feres is
applicable: (1) the duty status of the service member, (2)
the site where the injury occurred, and (3) the nature of the
activity performed by the service member at the time of the
injury. Id. at 637.
not dispositive, the first factor, the duty status of the
service member, is the most important factor to determine the
applicability of the Feres doctrine. Schoemer v.
United States, 59 F.3d 26, 28 (5th Cir. 1995). This
factor elucidates the relationship between the service member
and the military at the time of the injury, which helps the
court to determine “how truly incident to
service [the injury] was.” Regan, 524 F.3d at
637 (emphasis in orginal). A service member's duty status
falls somewhere on the continuum between active duty and
discharge. See Schoemer, 59 F.3d at 29. If a service
member is on active duty, the Feres doctrine likely
applies, but if a service member has been discharged, the
Feres doctrine likely does not apply. Id.
To determine where an active service member falls on the
continuum, the court should not look to whether the service