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Marques v. United States Postal Service

United States District Court, S.D. California

June 25, 2019



          Hon. Anthony J. Battaglia, United States District Judge.

         Before the Court is Defendant United States Postal Service's motion to dismiss Plaintiff Rafael de Lima Marques's Complaint under Rules 4, 12(b)(1), and 12(b)(6) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. (Doc. No. 8.) Having reviewed the parties' arguments and controlling legal authority, and pursuant to Civil Local Rule 7.1.d.1, the Court finds the matter suitable for decision on the papers without oral argument. Accordingly, the July 11, 2019 motion hearing is hereby VACATED. For the reasons set forth below, the Court GRANTS Defendant's motion to dismiss.

         I. BACKGROUND

         Although Plaintiff failed to fill out the section of his complaint entitled, “Statement of Claim, ” the Court has liberally construed the pleadings and looked to the exhibits provided to decipher the claim. See Fed. R. Civ. P. 10(c) (“A copy of a written instrument that is an exhibit to a pleading is a part of the pleading for all purposes.”); Balistreri v. Pacifica Police Dep't, 901 F.2d 696, 699 (9th Cir. 1988) (pro se pleadings are liberally construed). The following facts are taken from the Complaint and attached exhibits. They are construed as true for the limited purpose of resolving the instant motion. See Brown v. Elec. Arts, Inc., 724 F.3d 1235, 1247 (9th Cir. 2013).

         In a demand letter attached to the Complaint, which had been sent to Defendant's legal department prior to commencement of this action, Plaintiff contends that on July 20, 2018, he shipped a rig[1] valued at $3, 310.38 through Defendant's services. (Doc. No. 1-2 at 31.) Plaintiff purchased postage, insurance for the contents of the package, and tracking services for a total of $144.07 from Defendant. (Id.) Plaintiff claims that the rig arrived at its destination in a damaged condition, so he sought reimbursement from Defendant. (Id.)

         Plaintiff filed an insurance claim with USPS. (Id.) Defendant instructed Plaintiff to “present the item(s) and mailing container including the wrapping, packaging, and any other contents received, along with this letter, to a Post Office for inspection within 20 days.” (Doc. No. 1-2 at 39.) Further, that “[i]f this evidence of damage is not available for inspection, [Plaintiff's] claim may be denied.” (Id.) Plaintiff delivered the rig to Defendant for inspection in furtherance of his insurance claim. (Doc. No. 1-2 at 31.) Defendant denied Plaintiff's claim. (Id. at 40.) As grounds for the denial, Defendant cited “failure to present the article, mailing container and all packaging to the Post Office for inspection as requested.” (Id.)

         Plaintiff subsequently appealed. Defendant's claims division in St. Louis, Missouri upheld the prior decision to deny Plaintiff's claim. (Doc. No. 1-2 at 41.) The letter states that USPS did not have an opportunity to inspect the package in which the rig was shipped, and that Plaintiff provided insufficient proof of value. (Id.) Defendant's Consumer Advocate Office in Washington D.C. upheld the decision of the St. Louis office. (Id. at 43.) Plaintiff filed this action and requests “the court to order the defendant to reimburse me for the damaged item.” (Doc. No. 1 at 3.)

         The Court issued notice of a hearing for dismissal for want of prosecution pursuant to Rule 4(m) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure because Plaintiff had not served Defendant with notice of this action. (Doc. No. 5.) Plaintiff then served Defendant and filed proof of service with the Court. (Doc. No. 6.) The Court subsequently vacated the dismissal hearing. (Doc. No. 7.) Defendant then filed the instant motion to dismiss. (Doc. No. 8.)


         A motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6) tests the legal sufficiency of a plaintiff's complaint. See Navarro v. Block, 250 F.3d 729, 732 (9th Cir. 2001). “[A] court may dismiss a complaint as a matter of law for (1) lack of cognizable legal theory or (2) insufficient facts under a cognizable legal claim.” SmileCare Dental Grp. v. Delta Dental Plan of Cal., 88 F.3d 780, 783 (9th Cir. 1996) (citation and internal quotation marks omitted). However, a complaint will survive a motion to dismiss if it contains “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). In making this determination, a court reviews the contents of the complaint, accepting all factual allegations as true and drawing all reasonable inferences in favor of the nonmoving party. See Cedars-Sinai Med. Ctr. v. Nat'l League of Postmasters of U.S., 497 F.3d 972, 975 (9th Cir. 2007).

         Notwithstanding this deference, the reviewing court need not accept legal conclusions as true. See Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009). It is also improper for a court to assume “the [plaintiff] can prove facts that [he or she] has not alleged . . . .” Assoc. Gen. Contractors of Cal., Inc. v. Cal. State Council of Carpenters, 459 U.S. 519, 526 (1983). However, “[w]hen there are well-pleaded factual allegations, a court should assume their veracity and then determine whether they plausibly give rise to an entitlement to relief.” Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 679.

         Pro se pleadings are held to “less stringent standards than formal pleadings drafted by lawyers” because pro se litigants are more prone to making errors in pleading than litigants represented by counsel. Hughes v. Rowe, 449 U.S. 5, 9 (1980) (internal quotations omitted); see Noll v. Carlson, 809 F.2d 1446, 1448 (9th Cir. 1987), superseded by statute on other grounds, Lopez, 203 F.3d at 1126-30 (9th Cir. 2000). Thus, the Supreme Court has held that federal courts should liberally construe the “‘inartful pleading' of pro se litigants.” Eldridge v. Block, 832 F.2d 1132, 1137 (9th Cir. 1987) (quoting Boag v. MacDougall, 454 U.S. 364, 365 (1982)).

         Therefore, the Court will liberally construe this Plaintiff's legal claims when considering whether the complaint should be dismissed. However, pro se plaintiffs are expected to follow “the same rules of procedure that govern other litigants.” King v. Atiyeh, 814 F.2d 565, 567 (9th Cir. 1987); see Ghazali v. Moran, 46 F.3d 52, 54 (9th Cir. 1995); see also Jourdan v. Jabe, 951 F.2d 108, 109 (6th Cir. 1991) (“[W]hile pro se litigants may be entitled to some latitude when dealing with sophisticated legal issues, acknowledging their lack of formal training, there is no cause for extending this margin to straightforward procedural requirements that a layperson can comprehend as easily as a lawyer.”). Thus, failure to meet procedural requirements will receive less latitude.


         Defendant requests dismissal of Plaintiff's Complaint pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(1) for lack of subject matter jurisdiction, Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6) for failure to state a claim, and Fed.R.Civ.P. 4 for failure of service. The Court discusses each in turn below.

         A. Lack of Subject ...

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