Box v. United States of America et al

Filing 22

ORDER granting defendants' 14 Motion to Dismiss by Judge Robert S. Lasnik.(RS)

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1 2 3 4 5 6 UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT WESTERN DISTRICT OF WASHINGTON AT SEATTLE 7 8 9 10 11 12 _______________________________________ ) PRISCILLA BOX, ) ) Plaintiff, ) v. ) ) UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, et al., ) ) Defendants. ) _______________________________________) No. C16-1412RSL ORDER GRANTING DEFENDANTS’ MOTION TO DISMISS 13 14 This matter comes before the Court on defendants’ “Rule 12(b)(1) Motion to Dismiss 15 Amended Complaint.” Dkt. # 14. Having reviewed the memoranda, declarations, and exhibits 16 submitted by the parties, the Court finds as follows: 17 A. STANDARD OF REVIEW 18 Defendants assert that the applicable statutes of limitations, 28 U.S.C. § 2409a(g) and 28 19 U.S.C. § 2401, bar plaintiff’s claims. Because both limitations periods are jurisdictional (see 20 Block v. N.D. ex rel. Bd. of Univ. & Sch. Lands, 461 U.S. 273, 292 (1983); John R. Sand & 21 Gravel Co. v. U.S., 552 U.S. 130, 132, 136 (2008)), the Court may consider facts outside of the 22 four-corners of the complaint to assure itself that it does, in fact, have the power to hear this 23 matter. Americopters, LCC v. Fed. Aviation Admin., 441 F.3d 726, 732 n.4 (9th Cir. 2006). The 24 Court has, therefore, considered the declarations and evidence submitted by the parties. 25 26 ORDER GRANTING DEFENDANTS’ MOTION TO DISMISS 1 2 B. BACKGROUND Taken in the light most favorable to plaintiffs, the record shows that, in 1951, Nina 3 Brewer, was the owner of a parcel of land in Redmond, Washington. Brewer entered into a real 4 estate contract to sell the property to M. Talmage Nelson for $8,750.00. Nelson paid $2000.00 at 5 the time of contracting and promised to pay $50.00 per month thereafter until the balance was 6 paid off. Neither party has produced a deed conveying the property from Brewer to Nelson. 7 In 1954, the United States initiated a takings action to acquire fee simple title to the 8 property and surrounding parcels for use as a missile defense site. A preliminary certificate of 9 title showed that Nelson had acquired title through the 1951 contract and a 1953 deed. Dkt. # 14- 10 8. Nelson was named as the owner in the takings action and, in August 1958, the court fixed just 11 compensation, ordered payment of $2,875.00 to Nelson, and conveyed fee simple title in the 12 property to the United States. Dkt. # 14-5. Brewer died intestate in 1960. 13 The United States openly and obviously possessed, controlled, and used the property as 14 part of a missile defense site until 1974, when it licensed the property to the Washington Army 15 National Guard as an armory and training facility. In 2007, the King County Finance Division 16 sought information for use in a judicial tax foreclosure proceeding. Pacific Northwest Title 17 Company reported that the property was owned by Nina Brewer, as her separate estate. Dkt. # 16 18 at 21. Brewer’s sole heir was notified that he owned property in Redmond and petitioned to have 19 himself appointed administrator for his great-grandmother’s estate. The heir (and personal 20 representative) conveyed the property to Wayne Seminoff in 2011, who transferred the property 21 by quit claim deed to Priscilla Box, the named plaintiff in this case. 22 C. QUIET TITLE CLAIM 23 Through the Quiet Title Act, the United States waives its sovereign immunity from claims 24 challenging the federal government’s title to land. The waiver is conditioned, however, on suit 25 being brought within twelve years of “the date the plaintiff or his predecessor in interest knew or 26 ORDER GRANTING DEFENDANTS’ MOTION TO DISMISS -2- 1 should have known of the claim of the United States.” 28 U.S.C. § 2409a(g). Plaintiff argues that 2 the limitations period did not begin to run until 2007 when Brewer’s heir became aware of his 3 interest in the land. A similar argument was rejected in Fidelity Expl. and Prod. Co. v. U.S., 506 4 F.3d 1182, 1186 (9th Cir. 2007) (finding that plaintiff’s argument “that the twelve-year clock 5 should start when [it] knew of its own claim, not when Montana - its predecessor in interest - 6 knew of the United States’ claim” was inconsistent with the plaint text of the statute) (emphasis 7 in original). A claim under the Quiet Title Act accrues when the landowner knew or should have 8 known that the United States had claimed the land, not when the landowner realizes he has a 9 claim. Congress imposed a condition on the waiver of sovereign immunity, and the Court must 10 “be careful not to interpret it in a manner that would extend the waiver beyond that which 11 Congress intended.” Block, 461 U.S. at 287. Expanding the limitations period until a neglectful 12 (or, at best, disinterested) landowner discovers his own interests in land that the United States 13 long ago claimed as its own would contravene the terms of the waiver. 14 D. TAKINGS CLAIM 15 16 Plaintiff concedes that her claim for just compensation is barred by the limitations period set forth in 28 U.S.C. § 2401. 17 18 19 For all of the foregoing reasons, defendants’ motion to dismiss (Dkt. # 14) is GRANTED. The Clerk of Court is directed to enter judgment in favor of defendants and against plaintiff. 20 21 Dated this 4th day of January, 2017. 22 A 23 Robert S. Lasnik United States District Judge 24 25 26 ORDER GRANTING DEFENDANTS’ MOTION TO DISMISS -3-

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