Van Rooyen v. Anchorage Neighborhood Health Center, Inc. et al
ORDER Denying Motions at Dockets 9 and 11 . (Jan, Chambers Staff)
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE DISTRICT OF ALASKA
LANE E. VAN ROOYEN,
Case No. 3:14-cv-160 RRB
ORDER DENYING MOTIONS
AT DOCKETS 9 AND 11
UNITED STATES OF AMERICA and
ANCHORAGE COMMUNITY MENTAL
HEALTH SERVICES, INC.,
This action is based on injuries sustained by the Plaintiff as a result of lithium toxicity.
Following the filing of an administrative tort claim and a state court action for medical malpractice,
this matter was removed to federal court, and the United States was substituted as a defendant,
because the Federal Tort Claims Act (FTCA), 28 U.S.C. § 2671 et seq., provides the exclusive
remedy for claims against a federal agency.
The United States, after removal to this Court, filed a Motion to Dismiss the initial complaint
as premature under the FTCA. Doc. 9. Plaintiff then amended her Complaint to include an FTCA
claim and noted the expiration of the administrative claim review period. Doc. 9, ¶ 8-11. The United
States again moved to dismiss, arguing that the filing of an amended complaint could not cure the
defect in subject matter jurisdiction that existed at the time the action was filed in state court.
Docket 11. The Court now considers all of these issues.
ORDER DENYING MOTIONS AT 9 AND 11 - 1
An action shall not be instituted upon a claim against the United States for money
damages . . . unless the claimant shall have first presented the claim to the appropriate
Federal agency and his claim shall have been finally denied by the agency . . . . The
failure of an agency to make final disposition of a claim within six months after it is
filed shall . . . be deemed a final denial of the claim for purposes of this section.
28 U.S.C. § 2675(a). Although Plaintiff filed this suit in state court before expiration of the statutory
administrative review period, more than six months had passed since the filing of the administrative
claim when the action was removed on August 19, 2014. Docket 15 at 10. The parties disagree as
to when jurisdiction of this Court arose.
The Ninth Circuit has explained that in a case, such as this one, where the “original complaint
neither named the United States as a defendant nor stated a claim under the [Federal Tort Claims]
Act,” the filing of an amended complaint following the exhaustion of administrative remedies is
adequate. Valadez-Lopez v. Chertoff, 656 F.3d 851, 855-56 (9th Cir. 2011). The Court dismissed
“the government's central thesis . . . that ‘[t]he filing of an amended complaint is not the equivalent
to instituting an action following the exhaustion of administrative remedies.’” Id. at 855. Nor was the
Court persuaded by the government’s argument that the court was “required to dismiss the FTCA
claim in the amended complaint and to require the plaintiff to file an entirely new lawsuit founded
on the same nucleus of facts,” concluding that “[t]here is nothing in the statute or our case law that
would prevent a plaintiff from amending an existing complaint asserting non-FTCA claims to name
the United States as a defendant and include FTCA claims once those claims have been
administratively exhausted.” Id. at 856. The Court specifically distinguished cases which attempted
to invoke federal jurisdiction under the FTCA before the administrative process was completed. The
Ninth Circuit stressed that precedent “ought not be read as preventing a plaintiff who wishes to state
ORDER DENYING MOTIONS AT 9 AND 11 - 2
a number of federal and state law claims against an array of defendants from filing a complaint
alleging common facts and amending it after exhaustion to state an additional claim under the FTCA.
Such a reading would require undue acrobatics of such a plaintiff, given the different statutes of
limitations at play.” Id. at 857. This Court concludes that Valadez-Lopez controls the outcome here.
In light of the foregoing, the Motions at Docket 9 and Docket 11 are DENIED.
IT IS SO ORDERED this 16th day of December, 2014.
S/RALPH R. BEISTLINE
UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
ORDER DENYING MOTIONS AT 9 AND 11 - 3
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