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Depron v. United States

United States District Court, E.D. Louisiana

November 9, 2017

ETHEL DEPRON
v.
UNITED STATES OF AMERICA

         SECTION "F"

          ORDER AND REASONS

          MARTIN L. C. FELDMAN, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         Before the Court is the United States' motion to dismiss the plaintiff's claim for lack of jurisdiction and failure to state a claim. For the following reasons, the motion is GRANTED.

         Background

         A United States Postal Service vehicle, operated by Calvin Daiz, Jr., collided with a Jefferson Parish Transit bus at the intersection of Loyola Avenue and Tulane Avenue in New Orleans on August 11, 2017. Ethel Depron was a passenger on the bus. She alleges that as a result of the accident, she suffered from headaches, neck pain, and back pain. According to Ms. Depron, she was treated for these injuries at New Orleans East Medical Rehab for five months, incurring $2, 705 in medical expenses.

         According to the defendant, counsel for Ms. Depron, Tim Fields, attempted to file a claim with the United States Postal Service on November 11, 2015. One week later, the Postal Service sent Mr. Fields a letter stating that the initial letter did not constitute a valid claim. The letter, a copy of which was appended to the government's instant motion, outlines the steps a claimant must take to present a valid administrative tort claim to the Postal Service. On April 15, 2016, Mr. Fields filed a claim for injury using the appropriate forms, alleging that the Postal Service “sideswiped” the bus, the bus did not sustain any damage, and Ms. Depron claimed $15, 000 for her injuries. On August 11, 2016, Mr. Fields sent the Postal Service a letter enclosing copies of Ms. Depron's medical records (not presently made available to the Court) and threatening to file suit under the Federal Tort Claims Act if the Postal Service failed to accept the claim.

         On October 4, 2016, the Postal Service denied Ms. Depron's claim. In its letter, it stated that because the collision between its vehicle and the bus were very minor, there was no proximate cause between the collision and Ms. Depron's injuries. The Postal Service explained that if Ms. Depron was unsatisfied with its decision, she could file suit under the Federal Tort Claims Act. It also noted that the claim must be filed in federal district court within six months, and that the United States of America is the only proper defendant.

         In response, Ethel Depron sued the United States Postal Service and Calvin Daiz on February 8, 2017 in this Court, alleging that her “body and mind” were injured in the collision that she said was caused by Mr. Daiz. Ms. Depron sought to recover damages caused by the negligence of Daiz and the U.S. Postal Service. She alleged that the Court has jurisdiction pursuant to the Postal Reorganization Act. Contending that the Court lacks jurisdiction, the U.S. Postal Service and Mr. Daiz sought to dismiss the plaintiff's claims against them because the plaintiff failed to name the United States or mention the Federal Tort Claims Act, which is her exclusive basis for recovery. Ms. Depron did not file an opposition to the defendants' motion to dismiss. In its July 10, 2017 Order and Reasons, the Court dismissed Ms. Depron's claim for lack of jurisdiction. The Court held that the FTCA is the exclusive remedy for damages arising from tortious acts of federal agencies or their employees, and the United States is only proper defendant in an FTCA lawsuit, which the plaintiff did not name.

         On August 28, 2017, Ms. Depron sued the United States, recycling her February complaint, but properly naming the United States as defendant. Accordingly, she contends that Daiz acted negligently while in the scope of his employment, causing the accident and severe injury. In response, the United States moved the Court to dismiss Ms. Depron's complaint for lack of jurisdiction and failure to state claim.

         I. Legal Standards

         A.

         Motions filed under Rule 12(b)(1) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure allow a party to challenge the Court's subject matter jurisdiction. Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(1). The burden of proof for a Rule 12()B(1) motion to dismiss is on the party asserting jurisdiction. Ramming v. United States, 281 F.3d 158, 161 (5th Cir. 2001). The Court may find a plausible set of facts to support subject matter jurisdiction by considering any of the following: “(1) the complaint alone; (2) the complaint supplemented by undisputed facts evidence in the record; or (3) the complaint supplemented by undisputed facts plus the court's resolution of disputed facts.” Barrera-Montenegro v. United States, 74 F.3d 657, 659 (5th Cir. 1996).

         B.

         In considering a Rule 12(b)(6) motion, the Court “accept[s] all well-pleaded facts as true and view[s] all facts in the light most favorable to the plaintiff.” See Thompson v. City of Waco, Texas, 764 F.3d 500, 502 (5th Cir. 2014) (citing Doe ex rel. Magee v. Covington Cnty. Sch. Dist. ex rel. Keys, 675 F.3d 849, 854 (5th Cir. 2012)(en banc)). To survive dismissal, “a complaint must contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.” Gonzalez v. Kay, 577 F.3d 600, 603 (5th Cir. 2009)(quoting Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009))(internal quotation marks omitted). “Factual allegations must be enough to raise a right to relief above the speculative level, on the assumption that all the allegations in the complaint are true (even if doubtful in fact).” Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007) (citations ...


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