McAlphin v. Does et al
ORDER approving and adopting 39 Recommendation; granting Defendant United States of America's 30 motion to dismiss; and dismissing Mr. McAlphin's FTCA claims with prejudice. Signed by Judge Kristine G. Baker on 09/29/2016. (rhm)
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
EASTERN DISTRICT OF ARKANSAS
PINE BLUFF DIVISION
Case No. 5:15-cv-00214-KGB-JTK
DOES, et al.
(“Recommendation”) filed by United States Magistrate Jerome T. Kearney (Dkt. No. 39).
Plaintiff James McAlphin has filed an objection to the Recommendation (Dkt. No. 40).
Defendant the United States of America requested leave to file a response to Mr. McAlphin’s
objection (Dkt No. 41), and Judge Kearney granted that motion (Dkt. No. 42). The United States
of America then filed a response (Dkt No. 43) to which Mr. McAlphin replied (Dkt. No. 44).
Since that time, separate defendants Kidd Campbell and Dennis Cornes have filed a motion for
summary judgment (Dkt. No. 68), and Mr. McAlphin has filed a series of motions (Dkt. No. 74,
76). This Court construes these remaining pending motions as unrelated to the claim at issue in
the Recommendation currently before the Court (Dkt. No. 39). The Court makes no finding in
this Order as to the remaining pending motions.
At issue in the operative Recommendation is Mr. McAlphin’s claim under the Federal
Tort Claims Act (“FTCA”) that he was injured on September 30, 2013, when he was transported
by Arkansas Department of Correction officers to the federal building in Fayetteville, Arkansas,
where he was scheduled to testify as a witness in a court proceeding (Dkt. No. 1). The Court
writes separately to address Mr. McAlphin’s objections. Judge Kearney determined that the
Court lacked subject matter jurisdiction under FTCA because Mr. McAlphin did not exhaust his
administrative remedies before pursuing litigation in this case (Dkt. No. 15, at 3-4). Specifically,
defendants claim, and Judge Kearney recommends a finding that, Mr. McAlphin did not file an
administrative tort claim with the United States Marshal Service prior to filing this lawsuit.
Defendants state that the administrative claim is a jurisdictional prerequisite to the filing of a suit
pursuant to the FTCA, and that Mr. McAlphin bears the burden of proving he filed such a claim
(Dkt. No. 31, at 2). This Court agrees with those assertions. See 28 U.S.C. § 2675(a); Mader v.
United States, 654 F. 3d 794, 798 (8th Cir. 2011)(en banc); Walker v. United States, 176 F. 3d
437, 438 (8th Cir. 1999); Daniels v. United States, 135 Fed. Appx. 900, 2005 WL 1404770 (8th
Consequently, Judge Kearney recommends that defendants’ motion to dismiss be
granted. Mr. McAlphin’s objections, however, contend that he did file an administrative tort
claim with the United States Marshals Office before filing this lawsuit (Dkt. No. 37). Mr.
McAlphin contends that Judge Kearney construed this filing as a brief restating Mr. McAlphin’s
allegations, when, Mr. McAlphin asserts, in reality it is a copy of the Federal Tort Claim that was
submitted to the Marshals Office (Dkt No. 40, at 1). In response, defendants have put into the
record an affidavit from Clifton T. Massanelli, a United States Marshal for the Eastern District of
Arkansas, stating that the Marshals Office never received any such claim from Mr. McAlphin
(Dkt No. 43, ¶ 5).
For purposes of the Court’s analysis, a claim shall be deemed to have been presented
“when a Federal agency receives from a claimant, his duly authorized agent or legal
representative, an executed Standard Form 95 or other written notification of an incident,
accompanied by a claim for money damages....” 28 C.F.R. § 14.2(a). In this case, an executed
Standard Form 95 is not at issue, as Mr. McAlphin claims this was unavailable to him.
At the motion to dismiss stage, because the gravamen of the motion to dismiss is subject
matter jurisdiction, the court “is free to weigh the evidence and satisfy itself as to the existence of
its power to hear the case.” Osborn v. United States, 918 F.2d 724, 730 (8th Cir. 1990). Thus,
when considering a Rule 12(b)(1) motion to dismiss for lack of subject matter jurisdiction, the
plaintiff bears the burden of establishing jurisdiction. Id. In addition, the court can make
credibility determinations and weigh conflicting evidence. T.L. ex. rel. Ingram v. United States,
443 F. 3d 956, 961 (8th Cir. 2006).
At issue now is the fact that Mr. McAlphin states that he mailed a claim to the Marshals
Office before filing suit, and defendants claim that the Marshals Office never received this
claim—the implication being that it was never mailed. The Court construes this as a credibility
The Court notes that, in his complaint, Mr. McAlphin states that he filed
something with the Marshals Office, but he does not include a copy of the purported claim that
he mailed, even though the complaint instructs that failure to attach the required copies of the
grievance procedure to the complaint may result in the dismissal of his case (Dkt. No. 1, at 2).
The Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals has held that the plaintiff in a FTCA action bears the
burden of proof to show that presentment was properly made. Bellecourt v. United States, 994
F.2d 427, 430 (8th Cir. 1993), cert. denied, 510 U.S. 1109 (1994). “The FTCA is a limited
waiver of sovereign immunity which requires compliance with the conditions enacted by
Congress. These conditions are construed narrowly and include the requirement that before
filing an FTCA action the claimant ‘present’ an administrative claim requesting a sum certain in
damages to the appropriate federal agency and that the claim be finally denied.” Id. (citing 28
U.S.C. § 2675(a)). A claim brought pursuant to the FTCA may be properly dismissed for
inadequate presentment if a plaintiff fails to show that the government actually received the
claim. Id. Proof that a claim was sent to a government agency does not constitute proof that the
claim was received for presentment purposes. Receipt requires a separate showing. See Moya v.
United States, 35 F.3d 501, 504 (10th Cir. 1994) (plaintiff’s counsel’s affidavit stating that claim
was mailed to Department of Veterans Affairs was insufficient to show receipt); Rhodes v.
United States, 995 F.2d 1063, *2 (4th Cir. 1993) (plaintiff’s counsel’s failure to prove receipt of
FTCA claim sent via first-class mail was insufficient to show presentment); Drazan v. United
States, 762 F.2d 56, 58 (7th Cir. 1985) (“[M]ailing is not presenting; there must be receipt.”);
Bailey v. United States, 642 F.2d 344, 347 (9th Cir. 1981) (plaintiffs’ counsel's mailing of FTCA
claim to the Air Force by regular mail, rather than by certified or registered mail, was insufficient
to prove receipt); Polk v. United States, 709 F.Supp. 1473, 1474 (N.D. Iowa 1989) (in an action
against the United States Postal Service the district court determined that, even if plaintiff’s
allegation that he mailed a request was accepted as true, that fact would not prove receipt).
Based upon the foregoing case law and the record currently before the Court, even if the
Court credits Mr. McAlphin’s representations, Mr. McAlphin placing his alleged FTCA claim in
a mailbox is not sufficient to show that the claim was received by the Marshals Office. See
Wheeler v. United States of America, 2013 WL 6048761, at *2 (W.D. Ark. 2013), aff'd, 571 F.
App’x 504 (8th Cir. 2014). This Court finds that Mr. McAlphin has not met his burden of
establishing subject matter jurisdiction in this case because he has not shown that the proper
federal agency received his claim under the FTCA before he filed this lawsuit.
Mr. McAlphin alleges that his FTCA claim accrued on September 30, 2013, and this
Court concludes that he failed to exhaust properly his administrative remedies prior to filing suit
in this case on July 6, 2015 (Dkt. No. 1). Federal law makes clear that a tort claim against the
United States is barred unless it is properly presented in writing to the appropriate agency within
two years of accrual. Therefore, Mr. McAlphin’s FTCA claims are dismissed with prejudice.
Wheeler, 2013 WL 6048761, at *3.
Accordingly, after careful review of the Recommendation, the timely objections, the
response and reply to the objections, and a de novo review of the record, the Court concludes that
the Recommendation should be, and hereby is, approved and adopted in its entirety as this
Court’s findings in all respects.
Accordingly, it is so ordered that:
The Recommendation is approved and adopted (Dkt. No. 39).
Defendant United States of America’s motion to dismiss for lack of jurisdiction
pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(1) is granted (Dkt. No. 30).
Mr. McAlphin’s FTCA claims are dismissed with prejudice.
So ordered this 29th day of September, 2016.
Kristine G. Baker
United States District Judge
Disclaimer: Justia Dockets & Filings provides public litigation records from the federal appellate and district courts. These filings and docket sheets should not be considered findings of fact or liability, nor do they necessarily reflect the view of Justia.
Why Is My Information Online?