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Alexander v. United States

United States District Court, Ninth Circuit

December 18, 2013

DAYNE ALEXANDER, Plaintiff,
v.
UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, Defendant.

ORDER GRANTING IN PART AND DENYING IN PART PLAINTIFF'S MOTION TO AMEND OR DISMISS WITHOUT PREJUDICE [DOC. 7]

THOMAS J. WHELAN, District Judge.

Pending before the Court is Plaintiff Dayne Alexander's motion to amend his Federal Tort Claim Act ("FTCA") claim form or, alternatively, dismiss this action without prejudice so he can file an amended claim. Defendant United States of America opposes.

The Court decides the matters on the papers submitted and without oral argument. See Civ. L. R. 7.1(d.1). For the reasons discussed below, the Court GRANTS IN PART and DENIES IN PART the motion [Doc. 7].

I. BACKGROUND

This lawsuit arises from an injury suffered by Plaintiff Dayne Alexander while working out at the Olde Gym at the Naval Base San Diego. ( Mt. [Doc. 7-1], p.2.) Alexander contends that while using the Maxicam Squat Rack Stairstep 2020, the machine collapsed on him resulting in a comminuted fracture of the middle third of the left femur, requiring several surgeries. ( Id. ) Alexander alleges the machine fell because it was overloaded with weights and was not bolted to the floor. ( Id. )

Immediately following the accident, Alexander was rushed to Scripps Mercy Hospital where he underwent an emergency open reduction and internal fixations surgery. ( Mt., p.2.) Alexander then had a follow-up examination with Dr. Charles Roland, an orthopedic surgeon, who performed orthroscopic surgery on Alexander's left knee to clear debris and scar tissue related to the injuries. ( Id. ) Alexander was then referred to physical therapy. ( Id. )

On March 7, 2012, Alexander filed a claim for $850, 000 in damages with Defendant (the "Claim") under the FTCA. Defendant denied the claim and on March 8, 2013, Alexander filed this lawsuit.

Following Defendant's denial of the Claim, Alexander alleges that Dr. Roland prepared a report that "provided Plaintiff with a course of future medical care that plaintiff was unaware of at the time the Claim for damages was filed." ( Mt., p.3.) According to Dr. Roland's June 3, 2013 report, Alexander will require at least four future surgeries, and additional periods of recovery during which he will not be able to work. ( Id., pp. 3-4; Ex. [Doc. 7-2].) Alexander, therefore, intends to seek $6, 000, 000 in damages against Defendant. Because his Claim only sought $850, 000 in damages, Alexander seeks "leave to amend claim" or to dismiss the Complaint without prejudice to file a new claim.

II. DISCUSSION

A. This Court lacks the authority to amend Alexander's Claim.

Alexander requests "leave to amend his Claim" based on the information he received after his Claim was rejected. ( Mt., p.1.) However, Alexander has failed to establish this Court's authority to grant him leave to amend his Claim.

Although Alexander's request is somewhat unclear, he appears to be seeking an order that essentially deems his Claim "amended" so as to include his $6, 000, 000 damage claim, and preclude Defendant from challenging any subsequent award exceeding $850, 000 - the amount sought in the current Claim. However, Alexander has failed to identify any rule or statute authorizing a motion in district court to amend an FTCA claim form.

Alexander's motion cites Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 15(a) as authority for his motion. But Rule 15 applies to the amendment of "pleadings, " which are defined as: "(1) a complaint; (2) an answer to a complaint; (3) an answer to a counterclaim designated as a counterclaim; (4) an answer to a crossclaim; (5) a third-party complaint; (6) an answer to a third-party complaint; and (7) if the court orders one, a reply to an answer." Fed.R.Civ.P. 7(a). An FTCA claim form is not a "pleading." Accordingly, Rule 15(a) does not govern his motion and does not give district court's discretion to allow a plaintiff to amend a claim.

Moreover, the Court is unaware of any rule or statute granting a district court authority to amend an FTCA claim. No such authority exists in 28 U.S.C. § 2675(a), which specifically provides that a claim must be filed with "the appropriate Federal agency" before a lawsuit may be filed. See 28 U.S.C. § 2675(a). Moreover, allowing a plaintiff to amend a claim form in district court would be inconsistent with the FTCA's purpose of giving the Federal agency the ability to ...


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