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Hastings v. United States Postal Service

United States District Court, S.D. California

July 10, 2017




         The United States Postal Service (“the Postal Service”) and the United States of America (“the United States”) (collectively, “Defendants”) move to dismiss the first amended complaint (“FAC”) of Plaintiff Wendy Hastings for lack of subject matter jurisdiction and failure to state a claim. (Doc. No. 10.) Plaintiff opposes the motion. The court finds the matter suitable for decision without oral argument pursuant to Civil Local Rule 7.1(d)(1) and, for the following reasons, grants Defendants' motion.


         On September 15, 2015, Plaintiff fell while visiting a San Diego post office, fracturing her kneecap and arm. (See generally Doc. No. 8.) About two months later, and pursuant to the Federal Tort Claims Act (“FTCA”), Plaintiff filed an administrative claim with the Postal Service for injuries incurred as a result of that fall. (See id. at 3, ¶ 9.) The Postal Service denied the claim on April 27, 2016. (See Doc. No. 10-3 at 6-7.) Thereafter, in May 2016, Plaintiff initiated this action, filing a complaint (“the original complaint”), again pursuant to the FTCA, against the Postal Service. (Doc. No. 1.) Plaintiff did not name the United States as a defendant in the original complaint. (See Id. ¶ 3.) Plaintiff served the Postal Service, (see Doc. No. 5), but there is no record on the docket, or allegations in the FAC, that Plaintiff personally delivered, hand delivered, or physically mailed process (i.e., the original complaint and summons) to either the United States Attorney's Office or Attorney General. While the United States Attorney's Office received an automatic, court-generated notice of electronic filing (“NEF”)[1] for both the original complaint and summons, [2] the Attorney General did not receive an NEF for either.

         On May 8, 2017, the Postal Service moved to dismiss the original complaint for lack of subject matter jurisdiction. Four days later, Plaintiff filed the FAC, adding the United States as a defendant for the first time. (See Doc. No. 8.) Defendants filed the instant motion two weeks later.


         Defendants move to dismiss the FAC under two different provisions of Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12.

         I. Rule 12(b)(1) - Lack of Subject Matter Jurisdiction

         Federal courts are courts of limited jurisdiction. “Without jurisdiction the court cannot proceed at all in any cause. Jurisdiction is power to declare the law, and when it ceases to exist, the only function remaining to the court is that of announcing the fact and dismissing the cause.” Steel Co. v. Citizens for a Better Environment, 523 U.S. 83, 94 (1998). A party may make either a facial or factual attack on subject matter jurisdiction. See, e.g., Warren v. Fox Family Worldwide, Inc., 328 F.3d 1136, 1139 (9th Cir. 2003). In resolving a facial challenge, as Defendants make here, the court considers whether “the allegations contained in [the] complaint are insufficient on their face to invoke federal jurisdiction.” Safe Air for Everyone v. Meyer, 373 F.3d 1035, 1039 (9th Cir. 2004). The court must accept the allegations as true and must draw all reasonable inferences in Plaintiff's favor, Wolfe v. Strankman, 392 F.3d 358, 362 (9th Cir. 2004), but ultimately, as the party putting the claims before the court, Plaintiff bears the burden of establishing jurisdiction, Kokkonen v. Guardian Life Ins. Co. of Am., 511 U.S. 375, 377 (1994).

         II. Rule 12(b)(6) - Failure to State a Claim

         A motion to dismiss under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) challenges the legal sufficiency of the pleadings. To overcome such a motion, the complaint must contain “enough facts to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.” Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007). “A claim has facial plausibility when the plaintiff pleads factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged.” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009). Facts merely consistent with a defendant's liability are insufficient to survive a motion to dismiss because they establish only that the allegations are possible rather than plausible. Id. at 678-79. The court must accept as true the facts alleged in a well-pled complaint, but mere legal conclusions are not entitled to an assumption of truth. Id. The court must construe the pleading in the light most favorable to the non-moving party. Concha v. London, 62 F.3d 1493, 1500 (9th Cir. 1995).


         The court will first address Plaintiff's claim against the Postal Service before turning to Plaintiff's claim against the United States.

         I. Plaintiff's Claim ...

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