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Janise v. United States

United States District Court, M.D. Louisiana

September 17, 2019

EMANE JANISE, ET AL.
v.
UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, d/b/a/ UNITED STATES POSTAL SERVICE

          RULING AND ORDER

          JOHN W. deGRAVELLES UNITED STATES JUDGE

         This matter comes before the Court on Defendant's Second Rule 12(b)(1) Motion to Dismiss Claims of Edgar Janise and Chernella Janise (Doc. 29) filed by the United States (“Defendant” or “United States”). Plaintiffs Emane Janise (“Emane”), Edgar Janise (“Edgar”), and Chernella Janise (“Chernella”) (collectively “Plaintiffs”) oppose the motion. (Doc. 32.) Defendant has filed a reply. (Doc. 35.) 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, Defendant's motion is granted, and Plaintiffs Edgar and Chernella's claims against Defendant are dismissed without prejudice for lack of subject matter jurisdiction.

         I. Relevant Factual and Procedural Background [1]

         This Federal Tort Claims Act (“FTCA”) lawsuit arises out of a January 17, 2015 motor vehicle accident that occurred in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, involving a vehicle being driven by Plaintiff Emane Janise and a vehicle owned by United States Postal Service (“USPS”). (Doc. 26 at 2.) The vehicle Plaintiff Emane was driving at the time of the accident was owned by her parents, Edgar and Chernella Janise. (Id.)

         On January 13, 2017, Plaintiff Emane submitted an administrative claim on Form SF-95 identifying herself as the claimant and her parents, Edgar and Chernella Janise, as the owners of the vehicle damaged in the accident. (Id. at 3.) Plaintiffs filed this suit on July 31, 2018 after receiving a final denial of that claim. (Doc. 1.) In response, Defendant filed a Rule 12(b)(1) motion to dismiss the claims of Edgar and Chernella Janise for their failure to exhaust administrative remedies under the FTCA. (Doc. 15.) On June 3, 2019, the Court issued a Ruling and Order in which it granted Defendant's motion and gave Plaintiffs an opportunity to amend their Complaint to cure the jurisdictional deficiency. (Doc. 25.)

         Subsequently, on June 28, 2019, Edgar and Chernella Janise submitted individual SF-95 administrative claims forms to the USPS for their claim as the owners of the vehicle. (Doc. 26 at 4.) Plaintiffs allege, “[t]he claims forms of Edgar and Chernella Janise relate back to the original claim form by their daughter Emane Janise in that Emane Janise identified her parents as the owners of the vehicle in her original claim.” (Id.) The original claim form submitted January 13, 2017 has received a final determination and this action was filed within six months of that determination. (Id.) The United States now moves to dismiss Edgar and Chernella's claims for lack of subject matter jurisdiction.

         II. Discussion

         A. Parties Arguments

         The United States files the instant motion seeking to dismiss the claims of Edgar and Chernella Janise due to their failure to exhaust administrative remedies under the FTCA prior to initiating this suit. (Doc. 29-1.) Specifically, Defendant contends that while both Edgar and Chernella Janise claim to have submitted their own individual administrative claim forms to the USPS on June 28, 2019, neither of them has alleged that prior to commencing this suit on July 31, 2018, they had obtained a written denial of their individual claims or that six months had elapsed since the filing of those claims, so the court lacks jurisdiction. Defendant also argues that Plaintiffs have no legal support for their relation back theory.

         In response, Plaintiffs assert that because Edgar and Chernella have submitted their own independent SF-95 forms, they have properly met the jurisdictional prerequisites to filing suit. (Doc. 32.) In addition, Plaintiffs rely on an administrative determination they were issued which they argue establishes that jurisdiction is now proper in this Court. (See Doc. 32-1 at 1-2.)

         In reply, Defendant makes two points. (Doc. 35.) First, Defendant again asserts that this lawsuit was brought prematurely. Defendant argues that Edgar and Chernella cannot remedy the jurisdictional defect by bringing their administrative claims to the USPS approximately 11 months after filing suit or by the USPS' Final Agency decision issued thereafter. Second, Defendant argues that Plaintiffs' relation back allegation lacks legal support, and, even if it had some, the law requires complete exhaustion of administrative claims prior to bringing an action.

         B. Applicable Law

         While this Court has previously laid out the requirements for properly exhausting an administrative remedy in its' Ruling and Order (Doc. 25) on Defendant's Motion to Dismiss Claims of Edgar and ...


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