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Lin v. United States

United States District Court, W.D. Louisiana, Lake Charles Division

September 7, 2018

YUN XIN LIN REG. # 78471-053


          KAY, JUDGE.

         Before the court are a Motion to Dismiss for Lack of Jurisdiction [doc. 24] filed under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(1) and a Motion for Summary Judgment [doc. 25] filed under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56 by the United States and United States Bureau of Prisons (“BOP”), in response to the complaint brought by plaintiff Yun Xin Lin under the Federal Tort Claims Act (“FTCA”), 28 U.S.C. § 2671 et seq., and the Freedom of Information Act (“FOIA”), 5 U.S.C. § 552. Doc. 1. These motions are unopposed and have been referred to the undersigned for review, report, and recommendation in accordance with the provisions of 28 U.S.C. § 636.

         I. Background

         Lin is an inmate in the custody of the Bureau of Prisons and is currently incarcerated at the Moshannon Valley Correctional Center in Philipsburg, Pennsylvania. His complaint relates to events that occurred at the Federal Correctional Institute at Oakdale, Louisiana (“FCIO”). Doc. 1. He raises four counts of negligent medical care by BOP providers at FCIO relating to treatment that he received and/or was allegedly denied for (1) hepatitis B, (2) a lipoma on his head, (3) a hand injury, and (4) dental repairs to his molars. Id. at pp. 2-4, ¶¶ 20-73. He also asserts (5) that the BOP arbitrarily denied him access to education resources and (6) that the Department of Justice/BOP failed to comply with his FOIA request. Id. at pp. 4-6, ¶¶ 74-104. He seeks a declaratory judgment, as well as compensatory damages and injunctive relief in the form of an order compelling production of his medical records. Id. at pp. 6-7.

         The United States and the BOP (collectively, “the government”), defendants in this matter, now bring the instant Motion to Dismiss and Motion for Summary Judgment. The government asserts that the court lacks jurisdiction over Lin's FOIA and educational resources claims, and that it is entitled to summary judgment on his medical/dental care claims. Doc. 24, att. 1; doc. 25, att. 1. Lin has not responded to either motion and his time for doing so has passed.

         II. Law & Application

         A. Rule 12(b)(1) Motion to Dismiss

         1. Legal Standard

         A motion under Rule 12(b)(1) attacks the court's jurisdiction to hear and decide the case. Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(1). A case should be dismissed for lack of subject matter jurisdiction “when the court lacks the statutory or constitutional power to adjudicate the case.” Home Builders Ass'n of Miss., Inc. v. City of Madison, 143 F.3d 1006, 1010 (5th Cir. 1998). The burden on such a motion lies with the party seeking to invoke the court's jurisdiction. Ramming v. United States, 281 F.3d 158, 161 (5th Cir. 2001).

         The United States has immunity from suit under the doctrine of sovereign immunity. Price v. United States, 69 F.3d 46, 49 (5th Cir. 1995). “Sovereign immunity is jurisdictional in nature.” FDIC v. Meyer, 114 S.Ct. 996, 1000 (1994). The government may waive its sovereign immunity and consent to be sued, but such a waiver must be “unequivocally expressed” to be effective. United States v. Nordic Village, Inc., 112 S.Ct. 1011, 1014 (1992). A waiver is also “strictly construed, in terms of its scope, in favor of the sovereign.” Lane v. Pena, 116 S.Ct. 2092, 2096 (1996).

         2. Application

         Lin names as defendants the Bureau of Prisons, a federal agency, and the United States. The government now moves to dismiss the FOIA and educational resources claims, asserting that the court lacks jurisdiction over those claims because the government has not waived its sovereign immunity.

         The FTCA operates as a waiver of immunity for actions for money damages for “personal injury or death caused by the negligent or wrongful act or omission of any employee of the Government while acting within the scope of his office or employment.” 28 U.S.C. § 2675(a). This waiver authorizes suits under circumstances where the United States, if a private person, would be liable to the claimant in accordance with the law of the place where the act or omission occurred. 28 U.S.C. § 1346(b)(1); e.g., Freeman v. United States, 556 F.3d 326, 335 (5th Cir. 2009). Before filing suit under the FTCA, the plaintiff must first present the claim to the appropriate federal agency, a requirement recognized by the courts as jurisdictional. 28 U.S.C. § 2675(a); e.g., Barber v. United States, 642 Fed. App'x 411, 413 (5th Cir. 2016) (unpublished) (citing Cook v. United States, 978 F.2d 164, 165-66 (5th Cir. 1992)).

         Lin brought his claims based on negligent medical/dental care and denial of educational resources to help him learn English under the FTCA. Doc. 1, pp. 2-6. He also shows that he presented all of these claims to the Bureau of Prisons through a tort claim filed with the BOP South Central Regional Director on or about November 5, 2015. Doc. 1, att. 1. Accordingly, it appears that he has satisfied the presentment requirement and asserted these claims under one of the limited waivers to sovereign immunity. As the government points out, however, Lin fails to show how the Bureau of Prisons would be liable under Louisiana law for this alleged denial because he does not identify any authority or case law creating a duty on the part of the BOP to provide inmates with educational resources for learning English. His claim thus sounds in discrimination rather than negligence and is not one where “a private individual under the same circumstances would be liable under the substantive law of the state in which the [action] occurred.” Ahern v. United States, 2014 WL 1614154, at *2 (N.D. Tex. Apr. 22, 2014). FTCA's waiver of immunity does not extend to this claim and it should instead be pursued through a Bivens action against the individual allegedly responsible for the discrimination. Likewise, Lin cannot show a waiver of sovereign immunity with respect to the FOIA claims because ...

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