Bartee v. Lynch
OPINION AND ORDER granting 6 Motion to Dismiss for Lack of Jurisdiction. Signed by Judge James P. Jones on 6/2/2016. (lml)
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE WESTERN DISTRICT OF VIRGINIA
BIG STONE GAP DIVISION
LORETTA E. LYNCH, ATTORNEY
GENERAL, UNITED STATES
DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE,
Case No. 2:15CV00027
OPINION AND ORDER
By: James P. Jones
United States District Judge
Christopher Bartee, Pro Se Plaintiff; James M. Sullivan, Special Assistant
United States Attorney, Charlotte, North Carolina, for Defendant.
The plaintiff brought this action because he alleges that he was injured
during the course of his employment with the Federal Bureau of Prisons. The
defendant has moved to dismiss the case because the Federal Employees’
Compensation Act provides the exclusive remedy for the plaintiff’s claim, thereby
precluding this court from exercising subject-matter jurisdiction. I agree that this
court does not have subject-matter jurisdiction, and I will grant the defendant’s
The following facts are taken from the plaintiff’s Complaint and relevant
documents, with every reasonable inference made in favor of the plaintiff.1
The plaintiff is employed by the Federal Bureau of Prisons at the United
States Penitentiary located in Lee County, Virginia (“USP Lee”). He claims that
on multiple occasions, USP Lee correctional officer Noland Crowe threatened him
with bodily harm. The plaintiff reported the threats to his supervisors, and a
workplace violence committee hearing was held on January 21, 2013, to address
the allegations. While Crowe agreed during the hearing that he would not threaten
or assault the plaintiff, Crowe allegedly made further threats after the hearing
ended. On April 8, 2013, while both men were on duty at USP Lee, Crowe
assaulted the plaintiff. The plaintiff claims that this assault caused him serious
On April 15, 2013, the plaintiff applied for benefits pursuant to the Federal
Employees Compensation Act (“FECA”). The Secretary of Labor declared him
eligible for such benefits via a letter that was sent on July 15, 2013. The plaintiff
As explained further below, the defendant’s motion includes some documents
that were not originally part of the plaintiff’s Complaint. However, because the
defendant submitted those documents to introduce facts that challenge jurisdiction, I will
consider those documents without converting the motion into one for summary judgment.
See Falwell v. City of Lynchburg, 198 F. Supp. 2d 765, 772 (W.D. Va. 2002).
began to receive his FECA benefits on July 19, 2013, and he continues to receive
those benefits today.
On April 1, 2015, the plaintiff filed an administrative claim with the Bureau
of Prisons. In that claim he requested $1.2 million, pursuant to the Federal Tort
Claims Act (“FTCA”), for the injury caused by Crowe. The Bureau of Prisons
denied the claim by letter dated May 14, 2015. The plaintiff subsequently filed
this action on November 12, 2015, and the defendant filed the subject motion on
April 8, 2016.
On May 2, 2016, I ordered the plaintiff to respond to the
defendant’s motion by no later than May 23, 2016. No such response was ever
filed, and the matter is ripe for decision.
When a defendant submits a Rule 12(b)(1) challenge to the factual basis for
subject-matter jurisdiction, the burden of proving such jurisdiction is on the
plaintiff. Adams v. Bain, 697 F.2d 1213, 1219 (4th Cir. 1982). “In determining
whether jurisdiction exists, the district court is to regard the pleadings’ allegations
as mere evidence on the issue, and may consider evidence outside the pleadings
without converting the proceeding to one for summary judgment.” Richmond,
Fredericksburg & Potomac R.R. v. United States, 945 F.2d 765, 768 (4th Cir.
1991). If the material jurisdictional facts are not in dispute and the defendant has
effectively challenged jurisdiction, then the case should be dismissed. See id.
Here, the defendant argues that the plaintiff received FECA compensation for the
same injury that he now complains of, thus precluding this court from exercising
FECA gives a remedy to federal employees who are injured during the
course of their employment. 5 U.S.C. § 8102(a). This remedy is similar to the
workers’ compensation mechanism that is available to employees in the private
sector. The Secretary of Labor has sole discretion to determine whether an injury
warrants FECA coverage, and that decision is not subject to judicial review. 5
U.S.C. § 8128(b); see Aponte v. United States, 940 F. Supp. 898, 900 (E.D.N.C.
If an injury qualifies for FECA benefits, then FECA “is exclusive and
instead of all other liability of the United States.” 5 U.S.C. § 8116(c). In other
words, a “[f]ederal employees’ injuries that are compensable under FECA cannot
be compensated under other federal remedial statutes, including the Federal Tort
Claims Act.” Wallace v. United States, 669 F.2d 947, 951 (4th Cir. 1982). This
lost right to sue under the FTCA occurs as a trade-off for the quick and more
certain recovery that is available under the FECA. See Lockheed Aircraft Corp. v.
United States, 460 U.S. 190, 193-94 (1983) (“In enacting this provision, Congress
adopted the principal compromise — the ‘quid pro quo’ — commonly found in
workers’ compensation legislation: employees are guaranteed the right to receive
immediate, fixed benefits, regardless of fault and without need for litigation, but in
return they lose the right to sue the Government.”) “Consequently, the courts have
no jurisdiction over FTCA claims where the Secretary determines that FECA
applies.” Sw. Marine, Inc. v. Gizoni, 502 U.S. 81, 90 (1991); see also Aponte at
The evidence presented to me shows that the plaintiff applied for and
received FECA benefits for the same injury that he now complains of.
defendant has provided the July 15, 2013, letter from the Department of Labor that
evidences the plaintiff’s FECA award (ECF No. 7-2), and has further provided an
declaration from USP Lee’s Environmental Safety and Compliance Administrator
who helped the plaintiff secure FECA benefits. (ECF No. 7-1.) The affidavit
confirms that the plaintiff was deemed eligible for and received FECA
compensation. The defendant has not created any dispute on this point. I therefore
find that because the plaintiff received a FECA award for his injuries, this court is
without jurisdiction to review a suit that is based on those same injuries.
For the foregoing reasons, it is ORDERED that the defendant’s Motion to
Dismiss (ECF No. 6) is GRANTED.
A separate final order will be entered
ENTER: June 2, 2016
/s/ James P. Jones
United States District Judge
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