The opinion of the court was delivered by: Wolin, District Judge.
Plaintiff, Denise Naidu, filed suit to recover damages for injuries
allegedly suffered when she slipped and fell while descending a staircase
at a building within Fort Hancock, a National Historic Landmark. This
case is now before the Court on defendants motion to dismiss. defendant,
the United States, moves to dismiss, pursuant to Rule 12(b)(1) of the
Federal holes of Civil Procedure, for lack of subject matter
jurisdiction, in the alternative, defendant moves for summary judgment,
pursuant to Rule 56 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. Plaintiff
opposes the motion. The Court has considered this matter, on the papers,
pursuant to Rule 78 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. For the
reasons stated below, the (unit will dismiss the Complaint, in its
entirety, for lack of subject matter jurisdiction.
Plaintiff was injured at Building 18 of Fort Hancock, located at the
Sandy Hook Unit of the Gateway National Recreational Area, in Highlands,
New Jersey. Plaintiff sustained her injuries as she fell down the last
two stairs of the main stairway at Building 18. Plaintiff claims that she
fell because (1) the stairs were coated with a slippery surface; (2) she
was misled by the handrail bannister which terminated at the second
step, not at the bottom step; and (3) the lighting was inadequate.
Plaintiff admitted, however, that while descending the stairs, she was
holding a "large" computer box which obstructed her view (if her feet. In
addition, plaintiff testified in her deposition that she placed no hand
on the handrail but, instead, used it as a visual marker. She also
admitted she fell because "[she] thought [she] was all the way down and
there was one step to go."
Fort Hancock, named for General Winfield Scott Hancock, has been an
important historic and military site
throughout American history.*fn1 (Kirsch exhs. 4-5).*fn2 At the time of
the Revolutionary War, Sandy Hook (which encompasses Fort Hancock) was
occupied by British and Loyalist Troops. (Id.) Dining the War of 1812,
the United States Army built a temporary fort and, in 1859, construction
began on a permanent masonry fort. (Id.) For close to a hundred years,
Fort Hancock served as an active coastal defense fortification designed
and armed to defend New York Harbor and the vicinity from sea and air
attacks. (Id.) The Army occupied the fort in both World War I and II,
when its population rose to 18,000. (Id.) While the military was active
at the fort, Building 18 (the location of' plaintiffs accident) served as
the officer's quarters for military personnel. (Baerlin Decl. ¶ 7).
Building 18 (the "Officer's Quarters") and the other buildings on
"Officer's Row" not only possess historic significance, they also reflect
the architectural mood of the times. Of note, the buildings on Officer's
Row, which have been described as "the most impressive" buildings at the
Fort, were constructed in the Colonial Revival architectural style.
(Kirsch exh. 5). This architectural style constituted a rejection of the
Victorian style and a rebirth of the Georgian and Federal designs which
typified the Revolutionary War era. (Id.)
Due to its historical significance, Fort Hancock. inclusive of the
Officer's Quarters, was designated as a National Historic Landmark. Sec
National Historic Preservation Act, 16 U.S.C. § 470-470x-6; Baerlin
Decl. ¶ 6. of significance to this motion, the Officer's Quarters'
staircase and handrail banister which plaintiff claims defendant
negligently maintained-are part of the original construction of the
quarters and have been determined to be a "character defining" feature of
this historic site. (Baerlin Decl. ¶ 9).
In 1974, the Fort Hancock was deactivated and transferred to the
National Park Service ("NPS") of the Department of' the Interior. As part
of its statutory mission and mandate, the NPS must "conserve historic
objects [and] provide for them in such a manner and by such means as will
leave them unimpaired for the enjoyment of future generations."
16 U.S.C. § 1; Baerlin Decl. ¶ 3.
In 1989, the NPS authorized the American Littoral Society (the "ALS"),
a nonprofit organization devoted to the study and conservation of aquatic
life, full use of the Officer's Quarters. In April 1997, plaintiff, then
an employee of the ALS, sustained her injuries on the stairs of the
Officer's Quarters during the course of her employment.
Plaintiff brings a one-count complaint against defendant, sounding in
negligence, under the Federal Tort Claims Act, 28 U.S.C. § 2671-80.
According to plaintiff, defendant was negligent because (1) the stairs of
the Officer's Quarters were coated with a slippery surface; (2) the
handrail banister terminated at the second step-not the bottom step; and
(3) the lighting was inadequate.
Defendant now moves to dismiss the complaint for lack of subject
jurisdiction.*fn3 Defendant contends that the acts alleged in the
plaintiffs complaint fall within the discretionary function exception to
the FTCA. See 28 U.S.C. § 2680 ...