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TOBIN v. U.S.
October 18, 2001
MATTHEW TOBIN, PLAINTIFF
UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, DEFENDANT
The opinion of the court was delivered by: Stanley S. Brotman, United States District Court
OPINION ON DEFENDANT'S MOTION TO DISMISS FOR LACK OF
SUBJECT MATTER JURISDICTION
Presently before the Court is Defendant's motion to dismiss for lack of
subject matter jurisdiction pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure
12(b)(1). For the reasons stated below, Defendant's motion shall be
FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND
This case involves the application of the Feres doctrine to the Federal
Tort Claims Act. Plaintiff, a member of the Armed Services, alleges
negligence against the United States in connection with a motor vehicle
As the Fort Knox training neared completion, the cadets prepared for
the drive back to West Point. To prepare the cadets for this trip, the
Army conducted a safety briefing in which it instructed the cadets to
drive carefully and travel in pairs to avoid fatigue (the "buddy system")
(Def.'s Reply Mem. in Supp. of Mot. Dismiss Ex. 3 (Statement of Captain
Ashe, U.S.A.).) At the briefing, the Army stressed the importance of the
buddy system, and even instructed the cadets that if both drivers were
tired they should pull over and get a hotel room, for which the Army
would later reimburse them. (Id.) This safety briefing was given on
Friday, August 7th, and the cadets were due back in West Point by
Sunday, August 9th. (Id.)
In keeping with the buddy system, Plaintiff and Cadet Wrenn drove
together in Cadet Wrenn's car. On August 8, 1998 at approximately 6:30
A.M., Cadet Wrenn allegedly fell asleep at the wheel and lost control of
her car while en route to West Point. (Pl.'s Br. in Opp'n to Def.'s Mot.
Dismiss at 2.) Both she and Plaintiff sustained serious injuries in the
resulting crash. (Id.)
On July 20, 2000, Plaintiff brought suit against Cadet Wrenn in the New
Jersey Superior Court, Law Division. Thereafter, Cadet Wrenn removed
this case to federal court and filed an Answer to Plaintiff's Complaint.
Subsequently, the United States Attorney successfully moved to substitute
the United States of America as the sole Defendant pursuant to
28 U.S.C. § 2679(b), 1441, and 1442. Now, the United States Attorney
moves for dismissal pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure
Defendant advances two arguments in support of its motion to dismiss.
First, it argues that this Court lacks subject matter jurisdiction since
the Feres doctrine bars Plaintiff's claim. Second, it contends that this
Court lacks subject matter jurisdiction because Plaintiff has failed to
exhaust his administrative remedies, as required by
28 U.S.C. § 2675(a). Because the Feres doctrine bars Plaintiff's
claim, the Court will grant Defendant's motion to dismiss.
Standard for Motion to Dismiss under Rule 12(b)(1)
Upon a motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(1), a court must determine if
it has the subject matter jurisdiction — i.e., the authority
— to consider the attacked claim. See Coll. Savings Bank v. Fla.
Prepaid Postsecondorary Educ. Expense Bd., 948 F. Supp. 400, 406 (D.N.J.
1996). Because "`federal courts are courts of limited jurisdiction,'"
their power to adjudicate is limited to "`only those cases within the
bounds of Article III and the United States Constitution and
Congressional enactments stemming therefrom.'" Id. (quoting Walsh v.
McGee, 899 F. Supp. 1232, 1236 (S.D.N.Y. 1995)). Indeed, the question of
subject matter jurisdiction is of such great consequence that it is a
the court is bound to ask and answer for itself, even when not
otherwise suggested.'" Id. at 406 (quoting Mansfield, Coldwater & Lake
Michigan Ry. v. Swan, 111 U.S. 379, 382 (1884)). In resolving this
question, "the person asserting jurisdiction bears the burden of showing
that the case is properly before the court at all stages of the
litigation." Fed. Realty Inv. Trust v. Juniper Props. Group, Civil
Action No. 99-3389, 2000 WL 45996, at *3 (E.D.Pa. Jan. 21, 2000) (citing
Packard v. Provident Nat'l Bank, 994 F.2d 1039, 1045 (3d Cir.), cert.
denied, 510 U.S. 964, 114 S.Ct. 440 (1993)).
In deciding a motion under Rule 12(b)(1), the court must first
determine if it attacks the complaint on its face or on its facts.
Carpet Group Int'l v. Oriental Rug Imp. Ass'n, 227 F.3d 62, 69 (3d Cir.
2000) (citing Mortensen v. First Fed. Sav. & Loan Ass'n, 549 F.2d 884,
891 (3d Cir. 1977)). If the motion disputes the complaint on its face,
then the court must consider the complaint as true, and disposition of
the motion becomes a purely legal determination. Mortensen, 549 F.2d at
891. On the other hand, if the motion concerns the existence of subject
matter jurisdiction in fact, then "no presumptive truthfulness attaches
to plaintiff's allegations, and the existence of disputed material facts
will not preclude the trial court from evaluating for itself the merits
of jurisdictional claims." Id. As such, the court is not confined to
the face of the pleadings when deciding whether subject matter exists on
certain facts, and may thus consider affidavits and other relevant
evidence outside of the pleadings. Berardi v. Swanson Mem'l Lodge No. 48
of Fraternal Order of Police, 920 F.2d 198, 200 (3d Cir. 1990).
In this case, Defendant's Motion attacks the Plaintiff's Complaint on
its facts, contending that the Feres doctrine precludes this Court's
subject matter jurisdiction because Plaintiff's injury occurred during
the course of Plaintiff's military service. Accordingly, this Court may
consider evidence outside of the ...
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