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Circelli v. United States

United States District Court, D. New Jersey

June 14, 2018



          SUSAN D. WIGENTON United States District Judge

         Before this Court is Defendant, the United States of America's Motion to Dismiss Plaintiff Peter Circelli's Complaint pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure ("Rule") 12(b)(1). This Court has jurisdiction pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1346. This opinion is issued without oral argument pursuant to Rule 78. For the reasons stated herein, Defendant's Motion to Dismiss is GRANTED.


         This civil action arises out of a motor vehicle accident. Plaintiff alleges that on July 20, 2015, an employee of the United States Postal Service ("USPS") negligently caused the USPS vehicle she was driving to collide with the County Collision and Towing LLC ("County Collision") vehicle Plaintiff was operating. (Compl. ¶¶ 4-5, 7, 9, ECF No. 1.) On August 6, 2015, Plaintiff submitted a Claim for Damage, Injury, or Death ("Standard Form 95") to USPS to recover for personal injuries and property damage from the accident. (Standard Form 95, ECF No. 12-3.) At the time Plaintiff submitted his claim, he requested $12, 149.85 in property damage. (Id.) Plaintiff did not provide USPS with a sum certain as to his personal injuries, and instead wrote: "under treatment." (Id.) On February 22, 2016, USPS issued a check payable to County Collision for $12, 149.85, "in full and final settlement of the claim filed[.]" (Settlement Letter, ECF No. 12-4.) On or about February 29, 2016, the check was cashed. (Settlement Check, ECF No. 12-5.)

         On July 19, 2017, Plaintiff filed this action to recover damages for personal injuries arising from the same collision. (See generally Compl.) On January 12, 2018, Defendant moved to dismiss the action. (ECF No. 12.) Plaintiff submitted his opposition on February 6, 2018, and Defendant replied on March 6, 2018. (ECF Nos. 15, 18.)


         Under Rule 12(b)(1), a defendant may move to dismiss a complaint for lack of subject matter jurisdiction by making a "facial" or "factual" challenge, "and the 'distinction determines how the pleading must be reviewed.'" S.D. v. Haddon Heights Bd. of Educ, No. 15-1804, 2018 U.S. App. LEXIS 2384, at *9 n.7 (3d Cir. Jan. 31, 2018) (citing Constitution Party of Pa. v. Aichele, 757 F.3d 347, 358 (3d Cir. 2014)). "Under either challenge, plaintiff bears the burden of persuasion to show the court has jurisdiction." White-Squire v. U.S. Postal Serv., No. 08-3486, 2009 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 8832, at *7 (D.N.J. Feb. 6, 2009) (citing Gould Elecs. v. United States, 220 F.3d 169, 176 (3d Cir. 2000)). In analyzing a facial attack, "the court must only consider the allegations of the complaint and documents referenced therein and attached thereto[.]" Aichele, 757 F.3d at 358 (citing In re ScheringPlough Corp. Intron/Temodar Consumer Class Action, 678 F.3d 235, 243 (3d Cir. 2012)). In analyzing a factual attack, the court "may look beyond the pleadings to ascertain the facts[.]" Id.

         Because this case concerns a factual challenge, this Court may look beyond the pleadings and consider the Standard Form 95, settlement letter, and settlement check. White-Squire, 2009 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 8832, at *8 (citing Medina v. City of Phila., 219 Fed.Appx. 169, 172 (3d Cir. 2007) (finding that defendant's motion to dismiss, which was based on plaintiff s failure to exhaust administrative remedies under the Federal Tort Claims Act ("FTCA"), was a factual attack on the district court's subject matter jurisdiction)).


         The United States is immune from suit unless Congress unequivocally waives sovereign immunity. United States v. Mitchell, 445 U.S. 535, 538 (1980).

The [FTCA] waives sovereign immunity for claims against the United States seeking monetary damages where the injury results from a 'negligent ... act ... of any employee of the Government while acting within the scope of his office or employment, under circumstances where the United States, if a private person, would be liable to the claimant.'

White-Squire, 2009 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 8832, at *9-10 (quoting 28 U.S.C. § 1346(b)(1)).

         A. Plaintiffs Failure to Exhaust Administrative Remedies

         "The FTCA has explicit exceptions to its waiver of sovereign immunity, including the requirement that a claimant first exhaust available administrative remedies." Id. at *10 (citing 28 U.S.C. § 2675(a)). This means that Plaintiff must have filed a claim with USPS within two years of his claim accruing, and received a final denial of that claim, prior to commencing this litigation. Id.; 28 U.S.C. § 2401(b). It is Plaintiffs burden to establish that USPS "was given (1) written notice of the [personal injury] claim sufficient to enable the [USPS] to investigate, and (2) the value of the claim." White-Squire, ...

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