Burdge v. Weiland
MEMORANDUM re Dft's MOTION to Dismiss 4 (Order to follow as separate docket entry) Signed by Honorable Sylvia H. Rambo on 11/21/22. (ma)
Case 1:22-cv-00549-SHR Document 13 Filed 11/21/22 Page 1 of 6
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE MIDDLE DISTRICT OF PENNSYLVANIA
ANNA R. BURDGE,
UNITED STATES OF AMERICA,
Civil No. 1:22-CV-549
Judge Sylvia H. Rambo
Before the court is Defendant United States of America’s motion to dismiss
the complaint for lack of subject matter jurisdiction. (Doc. 4.) For the reasons set
forth below, the motion will be granted.
On November 13, 2020, at approximately 1:18 p.m., Burdge was involved in
a motor vehicle accident when Brittany Weiland, an employee of the United States
Postal Service (“USPS”), ran through a stop sign and caused a broad-side collision
with Burdge’s vehicle. (Doc. 1-2 ¶¶ 3, 6, 10, 11.) At the time of the accident, Weiland
provided the investigating police officer with information about her personal
automobile insurance policy, issued by Erie Insurance Company. (Doc. 11 at 1.) Erie
paid Burdge’s claim for property damage in full but did not settle her personal injury
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On December 1, 2020, a tort claims coordinator for the USPS issued a letter
to Burdge, instructing her to file a Standard Form-95 (“SF-95”) with the USPS to
receive proper consideration of claims for personal injury damages. (Id. at 2, 12–
13.) Burdge’s attorney responded on December 15, 2020, and inquired about the
purpose of the December 1 letter, given that Erie was handling Burdge’s claims. (Id.
at 14.) On December 21, 2020, the coordinator acknowledged receipt of the
correspondence and stated:
[Y]our correspondence will be given careful consideration by the
United States Postal Service, and you will be advised regarding the
outcome of the matter. On December 1, 2020, [Burdge] received a
claim and letter of instructions for completion of this claim form. If Erie
Insurance Company will be completing this form or signing on behalf
of your claimant they must also attach a copy of their Power of Attorney
thereto; as stated in the letter of instructions.
(Id.) Over one year later, Burdge submitted an SF-95 to the USPS on April 27, 2022.
(Id. at 16–18.)
On February 14, 2022, Burdge initiated this action by filing a negligence claim
against Weiland in the Court of Common Pleas of Juniata County. (Doc. 1-2.)
Burdge seeks $50,000 in compensation for emotional and physical harm, medical
expenses, and lost earnings. (Id. ¶¶ 13–18.) The United States removed the case to
this court and substituted itself for Weiland pursuant to the Federal Tort Claims Act
(“FTCA”), certifying that, at the time of the incident, Weiland was acting within the
scope of her employment with the USPS. (Docs. 1, 2.)
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The United States has filed a motion to dismiss the complaint for lack of
jurisdiction. (Doc. 4.) The motion has been fully briefed and is ripe for review.
STANDARD OF REVIEW
To survive a motion to dismiss for lack of subject matter jurisdiction under
Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(1), the plaintiff bears the burden of proving
that the court has jurisdiction over the dispute before it. Gould Electronics Inc. v.
United States, 220 F.3d 169, 178 (3d Cir. 2000). Because a Rule 12(b)(1) motion
based on the plaintiff’s failure to exhaust administrative remedies is a factual rather
than a facial attack on the complaint, the court is entitled to “consider and weigh
evidence outside the pleadings to determine if it has jurisdiction.” Id. (citing
Mortensen v. First Fed. Sav. and Loan Ass’n, 549 F.2d 884, 891 (3d Cir. 1977); see
also Medina v. City of Philadelphia, 219 F. App’x 169, 172 (3d Cir. 2007). The
plaintiff has the burden to establish that a proper administrative claim has been filed.
See Livera v. First Nat’l State Bank of N.J., 879 F.2d 1186, 1195 (3d Cir. 1989).
The United States’ motion asserts that the court lacks subject matter
jurisdiction over this matter because Burdge failed to exhaust her administrative
remedies prior to filing the complaint, as required by the FTCA. See 28 U.S.C. §
2675, et seq. The FTCA provides that the United States shall be liable, to the same
extent as a private individual, “for injury or loss of property, or personal injury or
Case 1:22-cv-00549-SHR Document 13 Filed 11/21/22 Page 4 of 6
death caused by the negligent or wrongful act or omission of any employee of the
Government while acting within the scope of his [or her] office or employment.” 28
U.S.C. § 1346(b)(1). FTCA claimants are subject to the statute of limitations and are
required to exhaust all available administrative remedies before initiating an action.
28 U.S.C. § 2675(a); see also § 2401(b) (requiring that the claim be presented to the
appropriate federal agency within two years of its accrual and that the action be filed
within six months of the agency’s final denial of the claim). Because the FTCA
provides a “limited waiver of the United States’ sovereign immunity” from civil
causes of action, the requirements of administrative exhaustion are “jurisdictional
and cannot be waived.” Roma v. United States, 344 F.3d 352, 362 (3d Cir. 2003)
(requiring “strict construction of the [FTCA’s] limited waiver of sovereign
immunity”); White-Squire v. U.S. Postal Serv., 592 F.3d 453, 456 (3d Cir. 2010).
To exhaust administrative remedies, the plaintiff must first present her claim
to the appropriate federal agency and then receive a final denial from the agency in
writing. 28 U.S.C. § 2675(a). If the agency fails to make a final disposition within
six months after a plaintiff has filed a claim, the claim will be deemed a final denial.
Id. In presenting the claim, the plaintiff must provide the agency (1) an executed SF95 or other written notice of the claim sufficient to enable the agency to investigate,
and (2) the value of the claim in a sum certain. See 28 C.F.R. § 14.2; White-Squire,
592 F.3d at 457; Tucker v. U.S. Postal Serv., 676 F.2d 954, 959 (3d Cir. 1982).
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Here, the United States’ motion demonstrates that Burdge failed to exhaust
her administrative remedies because she did not adequately present her claim to the
USPS before filing this action. While Burdge contends that the December 2020
correspondence between her attorney and the USPS satisfies the exhaustion
requirement, and that the agency’s correspondence and actions constitute a waiver
of the requirement, neither argument is persuasive. Even if the December 15 letter
did provide adequate notice to the USPS of Burdge’s claim, it failed to include any
mention of money damages, much less a sum certain. (See Doc. 11 at 14.) See WhiteSquire, 592 F.3d at 460 (holding that failure to submit a sum certain amount for
injuries arising from the accident did not satisfy the exhaustion requirements).
Moreover, as discussed above, the exhaustion requirement is jurisdictional in nature
and cannot be waived, and the law is clear that Burdge’s belated filing of the SF-95,
approximately two months after initiating this action, cannot cure her failure to
exhaust. See McNeil v. United States, 508 U.S. 106, 112-13 (1993) (affirming
dismissal of an FTCA claim where the plaintiff commenced her lawsuit before
receiving a final denial of her administrative claim and noting that strict adherence
to the statute’s exhaustion requirements provides the “best guarantee of evenhanded
administration of the law”) (quoting Mohasco Corp. v. Silver, 447 U.S. 807, 826
(1980)). Therefore, because Burdge failed to exhaust her administrative remedies as
Case 1:22-cv-00549-SHR Document 13 Filed 11/21/22 Page 6 of 6
required by the FTCA, the court lacks subject matter jurisdiction over this matter
and the complaint must be dismissed.
For the reasons stated above, the United States’ motion to dismiss for lack of
subject matter jurisdiction will be granted and the complaint will be dismissed.
Dated: November 21, 2022
/s/ Sylvia H. Rambo
SYLVIA H. RAMBO
United States District Judge
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