Lucas v. United States Postal Service et al
ORDER granting 47 Motion to Dismiss; granting 47 Motion for Order; granting 15 Motion to Dismiss; granting 15 Motion to Dismiss for Lack of Jurisdiction; granting 23 Motion to Substitute Party. ; granting 23 Motion to Dismiss. Please see attached Ruling & Order for details. Signed by Judge Robert N. Chatigny on 3/31/2017. (Rickevicius, L.)
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
DISTRICT OF CONNECTICUT
United States Postal Service, :
Jodi Heslin and
Case No. 3:15-cv-1754 (RNC)
RULING AND ORDER
Plaintiff Tricia Lucas brings this action under the Federal
Tort Claims Act of 1946, as amended, 28 U.S.C. § 2671 et seq.
(“FTCA”) and the common law of Connecticut against the U.S.
Postal Service, Jodi Heslin, and Joseph Mazzola, seeking damages
for intentional and negligent infliction of emotional distress.
At the pertinent time, plaintiff, her husband Robert Lucas, and
defendants Heslin and Mazzola were all employees of the Postal
Plaintiff alleges that Heslin, while having a sexual
affair with Robert Lucas, and in furtherance of the affair, used
her supervisory position at the Postal Service to interfere with
plaintiff’s employment, including denying the plaintiff’s
applications for promotions.
She alleges that Mazzola was
Heslin’s close friend and paramour, knew of the relationship
between Heslin and Robert Lucas, colluded with Heslin to cover up
her affair with Robert, failed to intervene to prevent Heslin
from harming the plaintiff’s career and assisted Heslin’s
attempts to harm the plaintiff by improperly denying the
plaintiff’s applications for promotions.
The Postal Service has moved pursuant to the FTCA (ECF No.
23) to substitute the United States as the sole defendant with
regard to parts of counts two, four and eight, which plead common
law claims for negligent and intentional infliction of emotional
distress against defendants Heslin and Mazzola in their
individual capacities based on their allegedly wrongful actions
toward the plaintiff that interfered with her employment and
caused her emotional injuries.
The FTCA provides the exclusive
remedy for persons injured by the negligent or wrongful actions
of federal employees acting in the scope of their employment. 28
U.S.C. §§ 1346(b)(1), 2679(a),(b)(1).
AUSA John B. Hughes, Chief
of the Civil Division of the U.S. Attorney’s Office, has
certified that at the pertinent times, Heslin and Mazzola were
acting within the scope of their federal employment as to certain
of the wrongful acts alleged in these counts (specifically, with
regard to Heslin, needlessly requiring the plaintiff to work on
Saturdays, using a Postal Service cell phone and email account to
order the plaintiff to work on Saturdays and denying the
plaintiff’s applications for promotions; and with regard to
Mazzola, denying the plaintiff’s applications for promotions).
Under 28 U.S.C. § 2679(d)(2), the certification requires that the
United States be substituted as the party defendant with regard
to those allegedly wrongful acts.
Accordingly, the motion to
substitute the United States as a party is granted.
The Postal Service has also moved to dismiss or, in the
alternative, to stay the FTCA claim (ECF No. 15) on the ground
that a substantial question exists as to whether the plaintiff’s
claims for emotional injuries sustained in the course of her
employment are exclusively cognizable under the Federal Employees
Compensation Act, 5 U.S.C. § 8116(c) (“FECA”).
The Secretary of
Labor is authorized to determine whether an injury is compensable
under the FECA.
5 U.S.C. § 8124(a).
When a substantial question
of FECA coverage is presented in a case brought under the FTCA,
the Secretary of Labor must be allowed to determine whether the
claimed injury is compensable under the FECA.
See O’Donnell v.
United States, No. CIV.A 04-00101, 2006 WL 166531, at *5-6 (E.D.
Pa. Jan. 20, 2006).
Accordingly, the motion to stay further
proceedings on the FTCA claim is granted pending a determination
by the Secretary of Labor on the applicability of the FECA.
Finally, plaintiff has moved to dismiss without prejudice
her common law claims against Heslin and Mazzola in their
individual capacities (ECF No. 47) so that she can pursue those
claims in state court.
Heslin and Mazzola oppose the motion and
have moved to dismiss the common law claims with prejudice for
failure to state a claim on which releif may be granted.
mandatory stay with regard to the FTCA claim prevents this Court
from proceeding on the only federal claim in the case.
the stay will remain in effect is unknown.
If the Secretary of
Labor determines that the plaintiff’s alleged injuries are
compensable under the FECA, the FTCA claim will be dismissed with
no further proceedings here.
In the interim, plaintiff’s state
law claims will need to be addressed.
The question is whether
the claims should be dealt with here or in state court.
In deciding whether to exercise supplemental jurisdiction
over state law claims, federal courts consider the values of
judicial economy, convenience, fairness and comity.
See City of
Chicago v. International College of Surgeons, 522 U.S. 156, 173
In the circumstances presented here, these factors weigh
in favor of dismissing the state claw claims without prejudice.
Though the case was filed in late 2015, counsel for defendants
Heslin and Mazzola did not appear until December 2016, and
January 2017, respectively, and no discovery has been done.
defendants contend that the plaintiff’s claims raise no novel or
complex issue of state law, but no precedent has been cited or
found that squarely addresses the unusual factual scenario
presented by the plaintiff’s allegations.
defendants’ motion papers can easily be recaptioned for filing in
state court, where the legal sufficiency of the plaintiff’s
allegations under state law can be authoritatively addressed.
Accordingly, the motion to substitute the United States as a
party (ECF No. 23) is granted, the motion to dismiss or, in the
alternative to stay (ECF No. 15) is granted, and the motion to
dismiss without prejudice (ECF No. 47) is granted.
motions are denied.
So ordered this 31st day of March 2017.
Robert N. Chatigny
United States District Judge
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