MOORMAN v. UNITED STATES OF AMERICA
MEMORANDUM AND OPINION. Signed by Judge Rosemary M. Collyer on 12/19/2011. (lcrmc2)
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA
UNITED STATES, et al.
Case No. 11-cv-1572 (RMC)
In March 2009, Jacqueline Moorman attended a computer fair at the D.C.
National Guard Armory. Ms. Moorman left the fair around noon and proceeded down an
exterior stairway. As she descended, one of the concrete steps crumbled beneath her. Ms.
Moorman lost her balance and fell, suffering significant injuries. She sued the United States, the
District of Columbia, and the Washington Convention and Sports Authority under the Federal
Tort Claims Act (“FTCA”), 28 U.S.C. § 1346(b), 2671, et seq, for negligence in maintaining the
steps and warning of potential dangers. Ms. Moorman’s complaint, however, must be dismissed
for failing to state a claim because she has not alleged any federal action or omission as required
under the FTCA.
I. LEGAL STANDARD
A motion to dismiss pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6)
challenges the adequacy of a complaint on its face, testing whether a plaintiff has properly stated
a claim. Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(6). Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 8(a) requires that a complaint
contain “a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief.”
Fed. R. Civ. P. 8(a)(1). A complaint must be sufficient “to give a defendant fair notice of what
the . . . claim is and the grounds upon which it rests.” Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544,
555 (2007) (internal citations omitted). Although a complaint does not need detailed factual
allegations, a plaintiff’s obligation to provide the grounds of his entitlement to relief “requires
more than labels and conclusions, and a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action
will not do.” Id. The facts alleged “must be enough to raise a right to relief above the
speculative level.” Id. Rule 8(a) requires an actual showing and not just a blanket assertion of a
right to relief. Id. at 555 n.3. “[A] complaint needs some information about the circumstances
giving rise to the claims.” Aktieselskabet AF 21. Nov. 2001 v. Fame Jeans, Inc., 525 F.3d 8, 16
n.4 (D.C. Cir. 2008) (emphasis in original).
In deciding a motion under Rule 12(b)(6), a court may consider the facts alleged
in the complaint, documents attached to the complaint as exhibits or incorporated by reference,
and matters about which the court may take judicial notice. Abhe & Svoboda, Inc. v. Chao, 508
F.3d 1052, 1059 (D.C. Cir. 2007) (internal quotation marks and citation omitted). To survive a
motion to dismiss, a complaint must contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to state a
claim for relief that is “plausible on its face.” Twombly, 550 U.S. at 570. When a plaintiff
pleads factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is
liable for the misconduct alleged, then the claim has facial plausibility. Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 129 S.
Ct. 1937, 1949 (2009). “The plausibility standard is not akin to a ‘probability requirement,’ but
it asks for more than a sheer possibility that a defendant has acted unlawfully.” Id.
A court must treat the complaint’s factual allegations as true, “even if doubtful in
fact.” Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555. But a court need not accept as true legal conclusions set forth
in a complaint. Iqbal, 129 S. Ct. at 1949. “Threadbare recitals of the elements of a cause of
action, supported by mere conclusory statements, do not suffice.” Id. “While legal conclusions
can provide the framework of a complaint, they must be supported by factual allegations. When
there are well-pleaded factual allegations, a court should assume their veracity and then
determine whether they plausibly give rise to an entitlement to relief.” Id. at 1950.
Ms. Moorman rests jurisdiction exclusively on the Federal Tort Claims Act.
Compl. ¶ 1. The FTCA allows an individual to sue “the United States for money damages . . . for
injury . . . caused by the negligent or wrongful act or omission of any employee of the federal
Government while acting in the scope of his . . . employment, under circumstances where the
United States, if a private person, would be liable . . . .” 28 U.S.C. § 1346(b)(1). Thus, to state a
claim under the FTCA, Ms. Moorman must allege an “act or omission of any employee of the
federal Government . . . .” Id. In seeking dismissal, the United States argues that even
construing all facts in a light most favorable to Plaintiff, she fails to allege any federal
Government action or omission. Ms. Moorman does not dispute this point. Instead, she states
that she “has reason to believe the District of Columbia had responsibility for maintaining and
repairing the steps . . . [and] [a]ssuming this information is true, plaintiff will voluntarily dismiss
the case against the Federal Defendants.” Opp’n [Dkt. # 11]. Having failed to allege any act or
omission by a federal employee, the Court lacks jurisdiction over the United States and must
dismiss it as a party to the suit. See 28 U.S.C. § 1346(b)(1); F.D.I.C. v. Meyer, 510 U.S. 471,
Ms. Moorman’s FTCA claims against the District of Columbia and the
Washington Convention and Sports Authority also fail because neither is an agency of the federal
Government. See Cannon v. U.S., 645 F.2d 1128, 1137 (D.C. Cir. 1981) (“This court has
uniformly held that the FTCA does not, as a general rule, render the United States liable for the
torts of employees or agencies of the District of Columbia because the District of Columbia is an
independent political entity”) (citing cases). Because Ms. Moorman rests jurisdiction exclusively
on the FTCA and because, under the FTCA, the Court lacks jurisdiction over each defendant, the
Court will dismiss Ms. Moorman’s complaint.
Ms. Moorman’s FTCA claim against the United States fails because she has not
alleged any federal action or omission. Her claim against the other defendants fails because they
are not agencies or employees of the United States. Accordingly, the Court will grant the United
States’ motion to dismiss [Dkt. # 9] an will dismiss the complaint. A memorializing Order
accompanies this Memorandum Opinion.
Date: December 19, 2011
ROSEMARY M. COLLYER
United States District Judge
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