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Rodriguez v. Department of Army

United States District Court, D. New Jersey

February 16, 2018

LUIS RODRIGUEZ, Plaintiff,
v.
DEPARTMENT OF THE ARMY, Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

          PETER G. SHERIDAN, U.S.D.J.

         This matter is before the Court on a Motion to Dismiss any Claim For Damages Exceeding $75, 000 and to Limit Damages to $75, 000 by Defendant Department of the Army pursuant Federal Rules of Civil Procedure 12(b)(1) and 12(h)(3). (ECF No. 26). For the reasons discussed below, Defendant's motion is granted

         Background

         This case arises from injuries sustained in a car accident. On August 22, 2011, Plaintiff Luis Rodriguez was involved in a serious car accident, when his vehicle was struck by another vehicle, registered to Defendant Department of the Army (hereinafter, "the Army"), that was operated by an Army employee, Michael J. Parmigiano. (Complaint at ¶¶ 4-5). As a result of the accident, Plaintiff sustained permanent physical injuries and damage to his vehicle. (Id. at ¶ 7).

         As required under the administrative process for seeking damages against the United States, Plaintiff submitted to the Army a Standard Form 95 Claim for Damage, Injury, or Death on January 22, 2013. (ECF No. 26-3, "SF-951"). In this form, Plaintiff identified property damage to his vehicle, and physical injuries to his "back, neck, and both knees." (Id.). In response to one question on the form, concerning the "Amount of Claim, " Plaintiff claimed $10, 108.72 for damage to his vehicle and "to be determined" for personal injury damages. (Id.). Two days later, the Army responded, informing Plaintiffs counsel that his SF-95 I form was deficient, since it failed to state a sum certain for his personal injuries. (ECF No. 26-4, "Letter From Army").

         Almost six months later, on July 15, 2013, Plaintiff submitted to the Army a second SF-95 form. (ECF No. 26-5, "SF-95 II"). Consistent with SF-95 I, Plaintiff again identified injuries to his "back, neck and both knees" and sought $10, 108.72 in damages to his vehicle, (Id.)', however, in this second form, Plaintiff claimed personal injuries damages of "[o]ver $75, 000.00." (Id.). As such, Plaintiff alleged total damages of over $85, 108.72. (Id.).

         Thereafter, on April 14, 2016, Plaintiff filed his Complaint in this Court, alleging three counts of negligence against the Army, Parmigiano, and fictitious defendants. Although the Complaint sought no specified amount in damages, the civil cover sheet attached to it demanded relief of $1 million. (ECF No. 1-1, "Civil Cover Sheet").

         Less than six months later, on October 4, 2016, the Army notified Plaintiffs counsel by letter that it was denying his claims. (ECF No. 26-6, "Army Denial Letter"). The letter explained, "Since your client has filed suit regarding this incident in The United States District Court, For The District of New Jersey, all claims related to the event that serve as the basis of this suit are no longer amenable to administrative resolution. (Id.).

         On April 28, 2017, Plaintiff provided the Army responses to its first set of interrogatories. When asked to identify damages for past pain and suffering, future pain and suffering, and property damage and repair, Plaintiff responded: $500, 000; $500, 000; and $6, 500, respectively. (ECF No. 26-7, "Plaintiffs Interrogatories" at 4). When asked to describe the injuries he sustained as a result of the August 2011 accident, Plaintiff stated:

My right leg, right knee and entire lower back; left knee, neck and upper back. I had surgery on the left knee with Dr. Christopher Spagnuola in August, 2013 and on the right knee in October, 2013. At present I am currently undergoing authorized medical treatment for the left knee which includes injections with Dr. Spagnuola.
I am still in severe pain in all the affected areas. The pain is not improving and is getting worse.
I have limited range of motion in my neck, back and legs. I am also having memory problems.

(Id. at 2).

         The Army presently seeks to limit Plaintiffs damages to the personal injury amount stated in the ...


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