Hester v. Le et al
Memorandum Opinion and Order granting 10 MOTION to Dismiss or Alternatively for Summary Judgment. (Ordered by Senior Judge A. Joe Fish on 7/7/2017) (rekc) (Main Document 14 replaced on 7/7/2017) (rekc).
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
NORTHERN DISTRICT OF TEXAS
HIEN DINH LE, ET AL.,
CIVIL ACTION NO.
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
Before the court is the motion to dismiss of the defendant United States of
America (“the government”) pursuant to FED. R. CIV. P. 12(b)(1) or, alternatively, for
summary judgment (docket entry 10). For the reasons stated below, the motion is
On February 14, 2015, United States Postal Service (“USPS”) employee Hien
Dinh Le (“Le”) was involved in a collision with a car driven by the plaintiff Dell
Hester (“Hester”). Brief in Support of Defendant’s Motion to Dismiss or
Alternatively, for Summary Judgment (“Motion”) at 2 (docket entry 11). At the time
of the accident, Le was driving a USPS vehicle within the scope of his employment.
On June 12, 2015, Hester timely submitted an administrative claim to the
USPS. Id. In a letter dated January 26, 2016 sent via certified mail, the USPS
formally denied Hester’s claim because the parties could not reach a mutually
satisfactory settlement agreement. Id. at 3; Appendix in Support of Defendant’s Brief
in Support of Defendant’s Motion to Dismiss (“App’x”) at 008-009 (docket entry
12). Hester’s attorney received the letter on February 2, 2016. See App’x at 009.
The letter read in pertinent part as follows.
In accordance with 28 U.S.C. § 2401(b) and 39 C.F.R.
912.9(a), if dissatisfied with the Postal Service’s final
denial of an administrative claim, a claimant may file suit
in a United States District Court no later than six (6)
months after the date the Postal Service mails the notice of
that final action. Accordingly, any suit filed in regards to
this denial must be filed no later than six (6) months from
the date of the mailing of this letter, which is the date
shown above. Further, note the United States of America
is the only proper defendant in a civil action brought
pursuant to the Federal Tort Claims Act and such suit may
be heard only by a federal district court.
Alternatively, and in accordance with the regulations set
out at 39 C.F.R. 912.9(b), prior to the commencement of
suit and prior to the expiration of the six (6) month period
provided in 28 U.S.C. § 2401(b), a claimant, his duly
authorized agent, or legal representative, may file a written
request for reconsideration with the postal official who
issued the final denial of the claim. Upon the timely filing
of a request for reconsideration, the Postal Service shall
have six (6) months from the date of filing in which to
make a disposition of the claim and the claimant’s option
under 28 U.S.C. § 2675(a) shall not accrue until six (6)
months after the filing of the request for reconsideration.
App’x at 008-009 (emphasis in the original).
The USPS never received a request for reconsideration from Hester. Motion
at 4. However, on January 20, 2017, almost one year after the denial of Hester’s
administrative claim, he filed suit against the government and Le in the 116th
Judicial District Court in Dallas County, Texas. Motion at 4; see also Appendix to
Notice of Removal at App’x 0006-0015 (docket entry 3). On May 26, 2017, Le
timely removed this action pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §§ 1346(b)(1), 1442, and 2679.
Notice of Removal ¶ 2 (docket entry 1). On June 12, 2017, the government moved
to dismiss this action under F ED. R. CIV. P. 12(b)(1) or 56(c) because Hester failed to
file this action within six months of the denial of his administrative claim by USPS as
required under 28 U.S.C. § 2401(b). See generally Motion. Hester failed to respond
to the motion.
A. Standard for Rule 12(b)(1) Motion to Dismiss
Federal courts are courts of limited jurisdiction. See Kokkonen v. Guardian Life
Insurance Company of America, 511 U.S. 375, 377 (1994); Owen Equipment and Erection
Company v. Kroger, 437 U.S. 365, 374 (1978). A federal court may exercise
jurisdiction over cases only as expressly provided by the Constitution and laws of the
United States. See U.S. CONST. art. III §§ 1-2; see also Kokkonen, 511 U.S. at 377.
Federal law gives the federal district courts original jurisdiction over “all civil actions
arising under the Constitution, laws, or treaties of the United States.” 28 U.S.C.
§ 1331. Moreover, a party seeking relief in a federal district court bears the burden
of establishing the subject matter jurisdiction of that court. United States v. Hays, 515
U.S. 737, 743 (1995); McNutt v. General Motors Acceptance Corporation of Indiana, Inc.,
298 U.S. 178, 189 (1936); Langley v. Jackson State University, 14 F.3d 1070, 1073 (5th
Cir.), cert. denied, 513 U.S. 811 (1994).
Rule 12(b)(1) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure authorizes the dismissal
of a case for lack of jurisdiction over the subject matter. See FED. R. CIV. P. 12(b)(1).
A motion to dismiss pursuant to Rule 12(b)(1) for lack of subject matter jurisdiction
must be considered by the court before any other challenge because “the court must
find jurisdiction before determining the validity of a claim.” Moran v. Kingdom of
Saudi Arabia, 27 F.3d 169, 172 (5th Cir. 1994) (internal citation omitted); see also
Ruhrgas AG v. Marathon Oil Company, 526 U.S. 574, 577 (1999) (“The requirement
that jurisdiction be established as a threshold matter . . . is inflexible and without
exception”) (citation and internal quotation marks omitted). On a Rule 12(b)(1)
motion, which “concerns the court’s ‘very power to hear the case . . . [,] the trial
court is free to weigh the evidence and satisfy itself as to the existence of its power to
hear the case.’” MDPhysicians & Associates, Inc. v. State Board of Insurance, 957 F.2d
178, 181 (5th Cir.) (quoting Williamson v. Tucker, 645 F.2d 404, 413 (5th Cir.), cert.
denied, 454 U.S. 897 (1981)), cert. denied, 506 U.S. 861 (1992). In ruling on a
motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(1), the court may rely on: “1) the complaint
alone; 2) the complaint supplemented by undisputed facts; or 3) the complaint
supplemented by undisputed facts and the court’s resolution of disputed facts.”
MCG, Inc. v. Great Western Energy Corporation, 896 F.2d 170, 176 (5th Cir. 1990)
(citing Williamson, 645 F.2d at 413). Once jurisdiction is challenged, the burden
rests upon the party seeking to invoke the court’s jurisdiction to prove that
jurisdiction is proper. Boudreau v. United States, 53 F.3d 81, 82 (5th Cir. 1995), cert.
denied, 516 U.S. 1071. Here, the government argues that Hester did not follow the
statutory requirements under the Federal Tort Claims Act (“FTCA”) and therefore
jurisdiction is lacking. See generally Motion.
B. Federal Torts Claims Act
“The FTCA gives federal district courts jurisdiction over claims against the
United States for money damages ‘for injury or loss of property, or personal injury or
death caused by the negligent or wrongful act or omission of any employee of the
Government while acting within the scope of his office or employment, under
circumstances where the United States, if a private person, would be liable to the
claimant in accordance with the law of the place where the act or omission
occurred.’” Sheridan v. United States, 487 U.S. 392, 398 (1988) (quoting 28 U.S.C.
§ 1346(b)). “It is elementary that the United States, as sovereign, is immune from
suits save as it consents to be sued ... and the terms of its consent to be sued in any
court define that court’s jurisdiction to entertain the suit.” Linkous v. United States,
142 F.3d 271, 275 (5th Cir. 1998) (quoting United States v. Mitchell, 445 U.S. 535,
538 (1980)). The FTCA is such a waiver of sovereign immunity. Id. (citing 28
U.S.C. § 1346(b)). This waiver, however, is limited. Under the FTCA, a claimant
must file an administrative claim within two years and file suit within six months of
the claim’s denial. 28 U.S.C. § 2401(b). Therefore, if the plaintiff fails to meet
FTCA requirements, the court is deprived of jurisdiction to hear the case. United
States v. Testan, 424 U.S. 392 (1976). Hester’s claim is barred by statute. Because
the letter denying his claim was dated January 26, 2016, he had to file suit by
July 26, 2016. Instead, Hester filed this case on January 20, 2017 -- nearly six
months after the six-month deadline. The court is thus deprived of jurisdiction, and
the government’s motion to dismiss must be granted.*
Additionally, Hester failed to respond to the USPS’s challenge to this
court’s jurisdiction. The plaintiff bears the burden of establishing the subject matter
jurisdiction of this court. See Hays, 515 U.S. at 743. Moreover, “[b]ecause there is
no presumption in favor of federal court jurisdiction and that jurisdiction is limited,”
the plaintiff must affirmatively show the basis for jurisdiction. Kirkland Masonry, Inc.
v. Commissioner of Internal Revenue, 614 F.2d 532, 533 (5th Cir. 1980). Hester has
failed to meet his burden of establishing that this court possesses subject matter
jurisdiction over his claims. See Hays, 515 U.S. at 743; Kirkland Masonry, Inc., 614
F.2d at 533.
For the reasons discussed, the government’s motion to dismiss Hester’s claims
for lack of subject matter jurisdiction is GRANTED.
July 7, 2017.
A. JOE FISH
Senior United States District Judge
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