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Kennedy v. Postmaster General

United States District Court, M.D. Louisiana

October 17, 2018

JANET KENNEDY
v.
POSTMASTER GENERAL

          RULING AND ORDER

          JOHN W. deGRAVELLES JUDGE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT MIDDLE DISTRICT OF LOUISIANA

         This matter comes before the Court on Defendant's Motion to Dismiss (Doc. 7) filed by Defendant the Postmaster General of the United States Postal Service (“Postmaster”). Plaintiff Janet Kennedy opposes the motion. (Doc. 15.) The Postmaster has filed a reply. (Doc. 16.) Oral argument is not necessary. The Court has carefully considered the law, facts in the record, and arguments and submissions of the parties and is prepared to rule. For the following reasons, the Defendant's motion is granted.

         I. Factual Background

         Plaintiff originally filed this suit on October 23, 2017 in the 23rd Judicial District Court, Parish of Ascension in the State of Louisiana naming the Postmaster General of the United States Postal Service as the sole defendant. (Doc. 1 at 1; Doc. 1-1 at 3 “Complaint”.) The Postmaster subsequently removed this suit to this Court pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1442(a)(1) and 39 U.S.C. § 409(a) on January 5, 2018. (See Doc. 1 “Notice of Removal”.) The complaint, filed by Plaintiff, a pro se litigant, provided little factual background and minimal detail of the alleged violations (Doc. 1-1 at 3.) In her one-page handwritten complaint, Plaintiff alleges “noncompliance of my disability and payment disputes regarding my FMLA account.” (Id.) Upon Defendants' Motion to Dismiss, Plaintiff's Opposition raised an Americans with Disabilities (“ADA”) and Family and Medical Leave Act (“FMLA”) claim, but Plaintiff provides almost no detail as to the alleged injury or disability suffered triggering these claims. (Doc. 15 at 1.)

         In the instant motion, Defendant Postmaster General seeks to dismiss all of Plaintiff's claims under the ADA and FMLA for lack of subject matter jurisdiction due to the United States' sovereign immunity pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(1) and personal jurisdiction for insufficiency of process under Rules 4(i) and 12(b)(5). (Doc. 16 at 1.) Plaintiff responded to Defendant's Motion to Dismiss by reiterating earlier claims made in the complaint and providing an apparent time line of the alleged incidents in question. (Doc. 15.)

         II. Analysis

         A. Lack of Subject Matter Jurisdiction 1. Rule 12(b)(1) Standard

         Defendant seeks to dismiss this action pursuant to Rule 12(b)(1) for lack of subject matter jurisdiction. Motions filed pursuant to 12(b)(1) “allow a party to challenge the subject matter jurisdiction of the district court to hear a case.” Bailey v. Office of Unemp't Ins. Admin., No. 17-560, 2018 WL 2074185, at *1 (M.D. La. May 3, 2018) (quoting Ramming v. United States, 281 F.3d 158, 161 (5th Cir. 2001)). “The burden of proof for a 12(b)(1) motion is on the party asserting jurisdiction.” Id. (internal citations omitted). “Accordingly, the plaintiff constantly bears the burden of proof that jurisdiction does in fact exist.” Ramming, 281 F.3d at 161 (citing Menchaca v. Chrysler Credit Corp., 613 F.2d 507, 511 (5th Cir. 1980)). “When a Rule 12(b)(1) motion is filed in conjunction with other Rule 12 motions, the court should consider the Rule 12(b)(1) jurisdictional attack before addressing any attack on the merits.” Id. (citing Hitt v. City of Pasadena, 561 F.2d 606, 608 (5th Cir. 1977) (per curiam)).

         “Ultimately, a motion to dismiss for lack of subject matter jurisdiction should be granted only if it appears certain that the plaintiff cannot prove any set of facts in support of his claim that would entitle plaintiff to relief.” Id. (citing Home Builders Ass'n of Miss., Inc. v. City of Madison, Miss., 143 F.3d 1006, 1010 (5th Cir. 1998)).

         2. Sovereign Immunity

         Defendant maintains Plaintiff lacks subject matter jurisdiction over her ADA claim due to the United States' sovereign immunity. (Doc. 16 at 1.) Defendants notes: “The United States has not consented to be sued under the Americans with Disabilities Act; in fact, the ADA does not apply to federal agencies.” (Doc. 16 at 2, citing 42 U.S.C. § 1211(5)(B)(i); Hendrickson v. Potter, 327 F.3d 444, 447 (5th Cir. 2003).)

         It is well settled that the United States and its agencies are immune from suit except where the United States has expressly consented to be sued. Alabama-Coushatta Tribe of Tex. v. United States, 757 F.3d 484, 488 (5th Cir. 2014) (quoting Koehler v. United States, 153 F.3d 263, 265 (5th Cir. 1998)). “Moreover, ‘[w]here the United States has not consented to suit or the plaintiff has not met the terms of the statute the court lacks jurisdiction and the action must be dismissed.'” Rowan Court Subdivision 2013 Ltd. P'ship v. Louisiana Housing Corp., No. 15-870, 2017 WL 4018859, at *5 (M.D. La. Sept. 12, 2017) (quoting Alabama-Coushatta Tribe of Tex., 757 F.3d at 488)(internal citations omitted). In addition, “Plaintiff bears the burden of showing Congress's unequivocal waiver of sovereign immunity.” Rowan Court Subdivision 2013 Ltd. P'ship, 2017 WL 4018859 at *5 (citing St. Tammany Parish, ex rel. Davis v. Fed. Emergency Mgmt. Agency, 556 F.3d 307, 315 (5th Cir. 2009)).

         Although the Postmaster only raised sovereign immunity as to the ADA claim, notably both the FMLA and ADA exclude the United States as an employer. 29 U.S.C. § 2611(B)(i) (“The term ‘eligible employee' [under the FMLA] does not include any Federal officer or employee….”); 42 U.S.C. § 12111(5)(B)(i) (“The term ‘employer' [under the ADA] does not include the United States…”). Plaintiff has failed to allege any waiver of sovereign immunity as it pertains to either the FMLA or ADA claim, and therefore, failed to demonstrate that her claims are cognizable under the FMLA or ADA. Furthermore, Plaintiff has failed to prove “any set of facts in support of [her] claim that would entitle plaintiff to relief.” Ramming, 281 F.3d at 161 (citing Home Builders Ass'n of Miss., Inc., 143 F.3d at 1010). Therefore, the Postmaster is immune from Plaintiffs' claims, and these claims should be dismissed pursuant to Rule 12(b)(1) without prejudice. See Smith v. Booth, 823 F.2d 94, 98 (5th Cir. 1987) (suit against federal entity was barred by sovereign immunity and district court was required to dismiss claims without prejudice for lack of jurisdiction); Warnock v. Pecos County, Tex., 88 F.3d 341, 343 (5th Cir. 1996) (“Because sovereign immunity deprives the court of jurisdiction, the claims bared by sovereign immunity can be dismissed only under Rule 12(b)(1) and not with prejudice.”)

         B. Lack of ...


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