Alexander v. United States Postal Service et al
MEMORANDUM AND ORDER: Plaintiff's motion for leave to proceed in forma pauperis is GRANTED. As set forth in the Court's October 11, 2017 Memorandum and Order, the complaint is dismissed for lack of subject matter jurisdiction. See attache d Memorandum and Order for details. The Clerk of the Court is respectfully requested to serve a copy of the attached Memorandum and Order on the pro se Plaintiff and close the case. Ordered by Judge LaShann DeArcy Hall on 10/11/2017. (Zdanys, Joanna)
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
EASTERN DISTRICT OF NEW YORK
17-CV-3457 (LDH) (CLP)
UNITED STATES POSTAL SERVICE;
LASHANN DEARCY HALL, United States District Judge:
Plaintiff Audrey Alexander, proceeding pro se, brings this action against Defendant
United States Postal Service (“USPS”) and its main New York City post office, the James A.
Farley Post Office Building (“Farley post office”), seeking a refund of the postage she paid to
mail a package to her daughter. The Court grants Plaintiff’s request to proceed in forma
pauperis pursuant to 28 U.S.C. ' 1915. The complaint is dismissed for the reasons set forth
Plaintiff alleges that on April 14, 2017, she mailed a package to her daughter from the
Farley post office “next day mail and marked perishable.” Six days later, Plaintiff’s daughter
still had not received the package. Plaintiff spoke to a supervisor at the Farley post office, who
informed her that she was entitled to a refund of the postage. Plaintiff was unable to receive the
refund, however, because the mail clerk did not give her a receipt. Plaintiff seeks a refund of
STANDARD OF REVIEW
A district court shall dismiss an in forma pauperis action where it is satisfied that the
action is “(i) frivolous or malicious; (ii) fails to state a claim on which relief may be granted; or
(iii) seeks monetary relief against a defendant who is immune from such relief.” 28 U.S.C.
' 1915(e)(2)(B). The submissions of a pro se litigant must be construed liberally and
interpreted to raise the strongest arguments they suggest. Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 94
(2007); Sealed Plaintiff v. Sealed Defendant # 1, 537 F.3d 185, 191-93 (2d Cir. 2008).
Moreover, a plaintiff must establish that the court has subject matter jurisdiction over the
action. See, e.g., Rene v. Citibank NA, 32 F. Supp. 2d 539, 541-42 (E.D.N.Y. 1999) (dismissing
pro se complaint for lack of subject matter jurisdiction). The jurisdiction of the federal courts is
limited. Federal jurisdiction is available only when a “federal question” is presented, 28 U.S.C.
' 1331, or when the plaintiff and defendant are of diverse citizenship and the amount in
controversy exceeds $75,000.00. 28 U.S.C. ' 1332(a). “[S]ubject-matter jurisdiction, because
it involves the court’s power to hear a case, can never be forfeited or waived.” United States v.
Cotton, 535 U.S. 625, 630 (2002). Courts “have an independent obligation to determine
whether subject-matter jurisdiction exists, even in the absence of a challenge from any party.”
Arbaugh v. Y & H Corp. 546 U.S. 500, 514 (2006) (citing Ruhrgas AG v. Marathon Oil Co., 526
U.S. 574, 583 (1999)). Where jurisdiction is lacking, a court must dismiss the case. Manway
Constr. Co. Inc. v. Housing Authority of City of Hartford, 711 F.2d 501, 503 (2d Cir. 1983); see
also Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(h)(3).
Plaintiff has not proffered a basis for this Court’s jurisdiction. (See Compl. 3-4.)
Having determined that the Federal Tort Claims Act (“FTCA”) provides the only possible basis
for subject matter jurisdiction, the Court liberally construes the complaint as alleging a claim
under the FTCA. 1
Defendant USPS is an “independent establishment of the executive branch of the
Government of the United States,” and is therefore “part of the Government.” United States Postal
Serv. v. Flamingo Indus., 540 U.S. 736, 744 (2004). Therefore, a suit against the USPS is a suit
against the United States. See Djordjevic v. Postmaster Gen., U.S. Postal Serv., 911 F. Supp. 72, 74
(E.D.N.Y. 1995) (“Plaintiff’s action against the Postal Service is in fact an action against the United
States.”); Wilber v. U.S. Postal Serv., No. 10-cv-3346, 2010 WL 3036754, at *1 (E.D.N.Y. Aug. 2,
2010) (“An action against the USPS is an action against the United States.”). Through the
enactment of the Federal Tort Claim Act (“FTCA”), Congress provided a waiver of sovereign
immunity in certain cases. Wilber, 2010 WL 3036754 at *1. However, the FTCA expressly
provided that no waiver was granted with regard to “any claim arising out of the loss, miscarriage, or
negligent transmission of letters or postal matter.” 28 U.S.C. § 2680(b). Thus, sovereign immunity
is retained “for injuries arising, directly or consequentially, because mail either fails to arrive at all or
arrives late, in damaged condition, or at the wrong address.” Kuhner v. Montauk Post Off., No. 12cv-2318, 2013 WL 1343653, at *2 (E.D.N.Y. Apr. 4, 2013) (quoting Dolan v. U.S. Postal Serv., 546
U.S. 481, 489 (2006)). Because Plaintiff’s claim sounds in tort for the USPS’s negligent failure to
deliver her package, this Court finds that it is barred by the doctrine of sovereign immunity.
Accordingly, the Court lacks subject matter jurisdiction over Plaintiff’s tort claim. Having found
The Court further finds that the complaint does not allege a breach of contract because there is no indication that
Plaintiff has exhausted her administrative remedies under the postal regulations, as promulgated in the Domestic
Mail Manual. See McBride v. U.S. Postal Serv., No. 07-CV-0446, 2007 WL 1965337, at * 2 (E.D.N.Y. June 29,
2007) (“In order for the USPS to be liable under a contract theory, however, a party seeking to recover for the loss
of mail must exhaust all ‘administrative remedies available under the postal regulations’ before commencing her
action in district court.”); Djordjevic v. United States Postal Serv., 911 F. Supp. 72, 75 (E.D.N.Y. 1995); see also
Domestic Mail Manual § 609, incorporated by reference in the Code of Federal Regulations, 39 C.F.R. § 111.1
(postal regulations outlining administrative claims process for lost mail).
no other plausible basis for recovery, the Court concludes that the complaint must be dismissed.
Accordingly, the complaint is dismissed for lack of subject matter jurisdiction. Manway
Constr. Co. Inc. v. Housing Authority of City of Hartford, 711 F.2d at 503; see also Fed. R. Civ.
P. 12(h)(3). The Court certifies pursuant to 28 U.S.C. '1915(a)(3) that any appeal from this
order would not be taken in good faith, and therefore in forma pauperis status is denied for
purpose of an appeal. Coppedge v. United States, 369 U.S. 438, 444-45 (1962).
LASHANN DEARCY HALL
United States District Judge
DATED: Brooklyn, New York
October 11, 2017
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