United States District Court, N.D. California
ORDER GRANTING MOTION TO DISMISS RE: DKT. NO.
MARIA-ELENA JAMES United States Magistrate Judge.
Isaac Castro (“Plaintiff”), as Personal
Representative of the Estate of Sara Castromata, his
daughter, brings suit against the United States of America
(“Defendant”) under the Federal Tort Claims Act
(“FTCA”), 28 U.S.C. §§ 1346(b),
2671-2680. Pending before the Court is Defendant's Motion
to Dismiss pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure
(“Rule”) 12(b)(1) for lack of subject matter
jurisdiction in light of Feres v. United States, 340
U.S. 135 (1950), and its progeny. Dkt. No. 16. Plaintiff
filed an Opposition (Dkt. No. 18), and Defendant filed a
Reply (Dkt. No. 20). The Court finds this matter suitable for
disposition without oral argument and VACATES the July 14,
2016 hearing. See Fed. R. Civ. P. 78(b); Civ. L.R.
7-1(b). Having considered the parties' positions,
relevant legal authority, and the record in this case, the
Court GRANTS Defendant's Motion for the following
following facts are taken from Plaintiff's Complaint.
See Compl., Dkt. No. 1 (filed Jan. 28, 2016). Sara
Castromata was on active duty for the United States Marine
Corps (“USMC”) stationed at Marine Corps Base,
Quantico, Virginia (“MCBQ”) at the time of her
death. Id. ¶ 3. On March 21, 2013, Sgt. Eusebio
Lopez fatally shot Castromata while she was in her barracks
room aboard MCBQ. Id. ¶¶ 4, 12, 38.
alleges Lopez had documented head trauma and PTSD, following
his three tours in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom.
Id. ¶ 13. Lopez was initially supposed to
transfer to MCBQ to attend Recruiter school, but he was
reassigned to serve at the Officer Candidates School
(“OCS”) aboard MCBQ after failing a mental health
screening. Id. ¶ 15. When Lopez was transferred
to MCBQ in March 2012, MCBQ did not obtain or review his
medical records, and subsequently Lopez stopped treating his
mental health issues. Id. ¶ 14.
and Castromata had a brief, intimate relationship that began
in November 2012 and ended several weeks prior to March 21,
2013. Id. ¶ 28. Castromata began dating Cpl.
Jacob Wooley following her relationship with Lopez.
Id. ¶ 34.
March 21, 2013, Lopez sent Castromata a text message
indicating he was going to commit suicide. Id ¶
29. Castromata warned the Sentry about Lopez's text and
mental state, but the Sentry did not notify the chain of
command or document the incident. Id ¶ 30. The
same day, Lopez told the Sentry he was locked out of his room
and asked for the master key, which the Sentry gave him.
See id ¶ 33. Lopez later returned his own room
key to the Sentry, instead of the master key. Id.
Castromata and Wooley were on liberty and off-base on a
dinner date, Lopez used the master key to access
Castromata's room, Wooley's room, and the stairwells.
Id. ¶ 35. Castromata and Wooley returned to the
barracks between 8:30 and 9:00 p.m. and watched a movie in
Wooley's room before returning to Castromata's room.
Id ¶ 36. Around 10:00 p.m., Lopez, under the
influence of alcohol and in possession of a firearm,
confronted Castromata and Wooley, and fatally shot Wooley,
Castromata, and himself Id ¶ 38. Plaintiff
alleges their bodies were left in place for over six hours
before any action was taken to determine if the injuries were
survivable. Id ¶ 39. Specifically, Plaintiff
alleges “no action was taken to determine the medical
condition of all personnel involved until approximately four
hours after the shooting; local civilian authorities were not
contacted during this time to assist.” Id
brings a single claim in this lawsuit: negligence.
Id ¶¶ 41-44. In addition to the events
above, Plaintiff alleges that upon arrival at MCBQ, Lopez
never attended a Welcome Aboard Brief, which reviews the
Command's policies and procedures for personal firearms.
Id. ¶ 16. Furthermore, Lopez owned a
Springfield XD .45 caliber, semi-automatic pistol and
Remington shotgun in addition to several large knives and
ammunition, which he originally stored off-base at his
personal residence. Id. ¶¶ 17, 18.
Plaintiff alleges the Command knew about Lopez's firearms
by the time he moved into the barracks at OCS, but they did
not ensure his weapons were registered and stored at the
armory. Id ¶¶ 22-25. Indeed, in August
2012, members of OCS Command received information that Lopez
had weapons and suicidal aspirations, but Plaintiff indicates
the Command mishandled this incident by, among other things,
failing to properly log important details about the incident,
including Lopez's possession of weapons. Id
¶¶ 19-22. Additionally, the Command is required to
conduct Force Preservation Boards (“FPB”), where
members of the command discuss individuals with mental
illness or suicidal/homicidal intentions or histories, but
OCS's FPB, held on September 25, 2012, never mentioned
Lopez's name, suicidal ideations, weapons, or move into
the barracks. Id ¶¶ 26-27.
claims Defendant breached its duty to ensure the barracks was
a safe environment and to uphold and enforce its regulations
by, among other things: (1) failing to consciously and
deliberately transfer Lopez's medical records; (2)
failing to ensure Lopez registered and stored his weapons in
the armory; (3) failing to discuss and remedy Lopez's
mental health issues at the Command's FPB; (4) giving
Lopez the master key, in violation of a Marine Corps Order;
(5) putting a Marine who had multiple Non-Judicial
Punishments and was in the process of being administratively
discharged on Duty as the Sentry and in-possession of the
master key; (6) failing to enforce non-discretionary
Department of Defense and Marine Corps orders; (7) failing to
provide emergency medical attention immediately after the
shooting; and (8) failing to contact local civilian
authorities to assist. Id ¶ 43.
acknowledging the tragic nature of this case, Defendant moves
to dismiss under Feres v. United States and its
progeny, which prohibit suits against the military for
injuries arising out of or in the course of activity
“incident to service.” 340 U.S. at 146. Defendant
argues the “Feres doctrine” divests the
Court of subject matter jurisdiction over Plaintiffs case.
Mot. at 1, 3.
district courts are courts of limited jurisdiction;
“[t]hey possess only that power authorized by
Constitution and statute, which is not to be expanded by
judicial decree.” Kokkonen v. Guardian Life Ins.
Co. of Am., 511 U.S. 375, 377 (1994) (citation omitted).
Accordingly, “[i]t is to be presumed that a cause lies
outside this limited jurisdiction, and the burden of
establishing the contrary rests upon the party ...