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Hurley v. Fata

United States District Court, D. New Jersey

December 19, 2019

TERRY HURLEY, Plaintiff,
v.
JEFFREY FATA, GSA N.J. MANAGEMENT CENTER, MUKUND PATEL, FEDERAL HOUSING FINANCE AGENCY, UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, JOHN/ JANE DOES 1-10 AND ABC CORP. 1-10 FICTITIOUS NAMES,, Defendants. TERRY HURLEY, Plaintiff,
v.
JEFFREY FATA, GSA N.J. MANAGEMENT CENTER, MUKUND PATEL, JOHN/JANE DOES 1-10 AND ABC CORP. 1-10 FICTITIOUS NAMES, Defendants.

          OPINION

          KEVIN MCNULTY UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         Pending before the Court are the motions of defendant the United States of America (Dkt No. 19-cv-15624 DE 5; Dkt No. 19-cv-15632 DE 3) to dismiss complaints filed by plaintiff Terry Hurley in the two above-captioned cases.

         A brief word on the procedural history of these related actions. On May 1, 2019, plaintiff filed his first complaint in the Superior Court of New Jersey. (Dkt. No. 19-cv-15632 at ¶ 1 at 7). That complaint was filed against Jeffery Fata, GSA N.J. Management Center ("GSA"), Mukund Patel, John/Jane Does 1-10, and ABC Corp. 1-10. On July 5, 2019, plaintiff filed his second complaint in the Superior Court of New Jersey. (Dkt. No. 19-cv-15624 at ¶ 1 at 7). Both complaints' allegations are based on die same underlying conduct. The difference is that in die second complaint, Hurley added as defendants the United States of America and the Federal Housing Finance Agency ("FHFA") and increased die number of fictious defendants to 15, i.e. John/Jane Does 1-15 and ABC Corp. 1-15. (Id.).

         On July 19, 2019, the United States removed both actions and substituted itself for all federal defendants pursuant to the Federal Tort Claims Act. ("FTCA"). (DBr. at 6).

         On August 9, 2019, die United States moved to dismiss the complaints for lack of subject-matter jurisdiction because the plaintiff failed to exhaust the FTCA's administrative prerequisites before filing his complaint. (DBr. at 5).

         Hurley, for his part, does not dispute that he failed to exhaust his administrative remedies. (Hurley Opp. at 1). Hurley also seemingly concedes that dismissal is warranted. He only requests that if dismissal is granted, it be done without prejudice; in die alternative, he requests that the motion to dismiss be held in abeyance while he exhausts administrative remedies. (Id. at 2). Defendant Patel did not move to dismiss, but joins in plaintiffs request to stay this action rather than dismiss it. (Patel Opp.). The United States seeks dismissal and opposes die request for a stay. (Reply at 4-6).

         For die reasons explained below, I will grant the motions to dismiss.

         I. Summary[1]

         On July 5, 2007, a three car motor-vehicle accident occurred on the New Jersey Turnpike. At the time, Mr. Hurley was driving southbound on the Turnpike near mile 94.5 when he was struck by another vehicle operated by Mr. Fata. ('624 Compl. Count I, ¶¶ 1-2).[2] At the time of the accident, the complaints assert that Mr. Fata was operating his motor vehicle in the course of his employment for the owner of the vehicle, GSA. (Id. ¶ 2). The '624 Complaint adds as an allegation that Mr. Fata was operating the vehicle in the course of his employment for FHFA (Id. ¶ 3) and that the GSA and FHFA negligently hired Mr. Fata (Id. ¶ 4). Both complaints allege that as a result of Mr. Fata's negligence, Mr. Hurley sustained injuries, expenses, and damages. (Id. ¶ 5). Specifically, Mr. Hurley sustained injuries to his head, back, limbs, and body. (Id. ¶ 6). Mr. Hurley's car was also damaged, requiring extensive repairs. ('624 Compl. Count III, ¶ 2).

         The complaints additionally assert that another individual, defendant Mukund Patel, was operating a motor vehicle in a negligent and careless manner when he collided with plaintiffs car. ('624 Compl. Count II, ¶ 3). Mr. Patel is not a federal employee and does not join the motions of the United States to dismiss.

         As noted above, on May 1 and July 5, 2019, plaintiff filed two separate complaints in the Superior Court of New Jersey. Prior to Filing his complaints, Mr. Hurley did not submit an administrative tort claim to the GSA or the FHFA. (DE 5-2 (Dawn Austin Declaration) at 1-2; DE 5-3 (Brian Terhaar Declaration) at 2). On July 5, 2019, the same date he filed his second court complaint, plaintiff attempted to file an administrative tort claim with the GSA. (See DE 5-4 (John F. Basiak Jr. Declaration) at 1-2, 4).

         II. Discussion

         a. Legal standard

         Motions to dismiss for lack of subject matter jurisdiction pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(1) may be raised at any time. Iwanowa v. Ford Motor Co.,67 F.Supp.2d 424, 437-38 (D.N.J. 1999). "[B]ecause subject matter jurisdiction is non-waivable, courts have an independent obligation to satisfy themselves of jurisdiction if it is in doubt. See Mt. Healthy City Sch. Dist. Bd. of Educ. v. Doyle, 429 U.S. 274, 278, 97 S.Ct. 568, 50 L.Ed.2d 471 (1977). A necessary corollary is that the court can ...


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