Kellahan v. United States of America
ORDER DISMISSING CASE Since Plaintiff's injury asserted here has been determined by the Secretary of Labor to fall within FECA jurisdiction, the Court orders and directs that this action be dismissed because the district court has no jurisdiction over this matter. AND IT IS SO ORDERED. Signed by Honorable Richard M Gergel on 2/15/2017. (sshe, )
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
DISTRICT OF SOUTH CAROLINA 2011 FEB J5 PH It: J2
United States of America,
Civil Action No.2: 13-3534
This order addresses the Court's jurisdiction over this matter and follows the recent
submission of documents which clearly establish that this claim is subject to the exclusive
jurisdiction of the Federal Employees Compensation Act (FECA). Consequently, this Court,
acting sua sponte, dismisses this action brought under the Federal Tort Claims Act.
By earlier order of this Court, this action was stayed to allow the Plaintiff the opportunity
to file a claim under FECA, which is the federal government's version of the workers
compensation act. (Dkt. No. 14). The United States had earlier moved to dismiss this action for
lack of subject-matter jurisdiction, arguing that FECA was Plaintiff's exclusive remedy since she
had suffered her injury while on the premises of her federal government employer. (Dkt. No.5).
The Government was operating with the understanding that Plaintiff had not yet filed a FECA
claim in this matter. (ld. at 5 n.l). Plaintiff opposed the Government's motion to dismiss,
arguing that although she was injured on the premises of her employer, she was not operating
within the scope of her employment. (Dkt. No.8 at 2). Consequently, Plaintiff asserted that her
injury was not subject to FECA's exclusive remedy provision.
The Court denied the Government's motion to dismiss on March 6, 2014 and stayed this
action, to afford Plaintiff an opportunity to file a claim under FECA. The Court did this out of an
abundance of caution to confirm that the Department of Labor would accept FECAjurisdiction
over this claim. (Dkt No. 14 at 3-4). Plaintiff was instructed to file a status report every 90 days
to inform the Court of the status of Plaintiffs FECA claim. Plaintiffs first status report was
filed on June 3, 2014. The Court was informed that "the Plaintiff has filed a Form CA-7, Claim
for Compensation, and the U.S. Department of Labor ... has acknowledged receipt of the claim.
The Plaintiffs claim is currently under review." (Dkt. No. 15). A report filed on February 10,
2015 indicated that the claim has been "denied" and the Plaintiff had requested a hearing. (Dkt.
No. 27). Similar reports were filed with the Court in May and August 2015 and in February and
August 2016. Plaintiff filed a status report on February 7,2017 indicating that Plaintiff had not
made a timely request for an administrative hearing and for that reason the matter had been
administratively closed. (Dkt. No. 33).
After several years of similar reports from Plaintiff s counsel, the Court entered an order
on February 7, 2017, directing that the parties file all relevant decisions, applications and
communications regarding Plaintiffs FECA claim to determine if the Department of Labor had
recognized its jurisdiction over the claim. (Dkt No. 35). In response to this directive, Plaintiffs
counsel filed on February 14, 2017 numerous documents related to Plaintiff s FECA claim.
(Dkt No. 38). These newly filed documents revealed for the first time that Plaintiff had filed a
FECA claim before she had initiated her Federal Tort Claim and that the Government had
recognized in a decision dated June 13,2012 that the Plaintiffs injury had "arisen in the course
of employment." (Dkt. No. 38-3).1 Plaintiffs FECA claim was denied by the Department of
Labor because she was unable to demonstrate a casual relationship between the alleged incident
of March 8, 2012 and her claim injuries. Plaintiff was advised that she could request an appeal to
the Employees' Compensation Appeals Board (ECAB) within 180 days from the denial of her
claim. (Dkt. No. 38-17). The newly filed records further revealed that Plaintiff sought
reconsideration regarding the denial of her claim on June 22, 2012, and the request for
reconsideration was denied on August 8, 2012. The basis of the denial of reconsideration was
because of Plaintiff's inability to establish a causal relationship between the work related incident
and her claimed injuries. (Dkt. No. 38-5). Plaintiff never filed an appeal with the EACB and the
Department of Labor's denial of the FECA claim became final.
Instead of pursuing her FECA claim, Plaintiff administratively filed a Federal Tort Claim
on January 25, 2013. The Government denied the claim by letter dated July 9, 2013 on the basis
that FECA provided her exclusive remedy for a work related injury. Plaintiff thereafter filed her
Federal Tort Claim complaint in federal district court on December 19,2013. (Dkt. Nos. 38-6,
Following the issuance of the stay by this Court, Plaintiff filed a second FECA claim for
this same injury. In her application, filed May 13,2014, she acknowledged to the Department of
Labor (but not this Court) that this was not her first administrative claim in this matter. (Dkt. No.
38-13 at 2). The Department of Labor denied this second application for FECA benefits, noting
Plaintiff did not submit to the Court a copy of her original FECA application, stating
that she cannot locate the document. (Dkt. No. 38-1). The standard form for initiating a FECA
claim requires the employee to certifY that her injury was "sustained by me while in the
performance of my duty to the United States." (Dkt. No. 38-13).
the earlier filing of the claim, the Government's denial, and Plaintiffs failure to file an appeal to
the EACB. (Dkt. No. 38-16).
A federal district court is authorized to adjudicate only matters within its jurisdiction.
Claims under FECA must be processed administratively by the Department of Labor and are not
subject to the jurisdiction of the federal district court. 5 U.S.C. § 8116(c). The Secretary of
Labor has the exclusive authority to determine whether FECA applies to a federal employee's
injuries. 5 U.S.C. § 8145. Where FECAjurisdiction is present, the district court is mandated to
dismiss the action. Somma v. United States, 283 F. 2d 149, 151 (3d CiT. 1960).
The record before this Court clearly establishes that Plaintiff filed a FECA claim with the
Department of Labor prior to asserting her Federal Tort Claim. The Secretary of Labor accepted
jurisdiction over the claim, determining that the injury had "arisen in the course of employment."
(Dkt. No. 38-3 at 3). The Secretary denied the claim on the merits, finding that Plaintiff had
failed to establish a causal relationship between the work related incident of March 8, 2012 and
her claimed injuries. (ld.). Plaintiff further pursued the FECA claim through a request for
reconsideration, which was also denied on the merits of the claim. (38-5). Since the Secretary of
Labor, on the application of Plaintiff, recognized the jurisdiction ofthe claim under FECA, this
Court is without jurisdiction over this matter and must dismiss this action.
The Court further finds it necessary to address the lack of candor of Plaintiff's counsel in
handling this matter. The United States was operating under the impression that Plaintiff had not
filed a FECA claim, as indicated in its initial motion to dismiss. (Dkt. No.5 at 5 n.1). The
Court's decision to stay the action, rather than dismiss it, was for the purpose of confirming that
the Secretary of Labor would accept jurisdiction of the claim under FECA. Plaintiffs counsel
elected not reveal to this Court the existence of the prior FECA filing or the decisions of the
Department of Labor denying the claim and the request for reconsideration. Instead, Plaintiff's
counsel argued this matter was not subject to FECAjurisdiction. (Dkt. No.8 at 2). The status
report of June 3, 2014 was also highly misleading by indicating that a FECA claim had only
recently been filed and was "currently under review." (Dkt. No. 15). Had Plaintiffs counsel
candidly disclosed the Plaintiffs prior FECA filing and acceptance by the Secretary of Labor of
FECA jurisdiction, this action would have been dismissed on the Government's motion to
Since Plaintiffs injury asserted here has been determined by the Secretary of Labor to fall
within FECA jurisdiction, the Court orders and directs that this action be dismissed because the
district court has no jurisdiction over this matter.
AND IT IS SO ORDERED.
United States District Judge
Charleston, South Carolina
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