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Malewich v. U.S. Postal Service

argued: May 5, 1994.

STEPHEN B. LICATA, APPELLANT
v.
UNITED STATES POSTAL SERVICE



Appeal from the United States District Court for the District of New Jersey. (D.C. Civ. No. 93-cv-01386).

Before: Sloviter, Chief Judge, Hutchinson, Circuit Judge, and Diamond,*fn* District Judge

Author: Sloviter

Opinion OF THE COURT

SLOVITER, Chief Judge.

Stephen Licata appeals the district court's dismissal of his suit, which it treated as alleging a breach of contract, against the United States Postal Service for lack of subject matter jurisdiction. We conclude that we must reverse in light of Congress's specific grant to the district courts of original jurisdiction over such claims.

I.

FACTS AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY

Because the district court dismissed the complaint under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(1) before the Postal Service filed an answer, we review only whether the allegations on the face of the complaint, taken as true, allege facts sufficient to invoke the jurisdiction of the district court. See Haydo v. Amerikohl Mining Inc., 830 F.2d 494, 495-96 (3d Cir. 1987); Cardio-Medical Assocs., Ltd. v. Crozer-Chester Medical Ctr., 721 F.2d 68, 75 (3d Cir. 1983).

According to the complaint, the Postal Service has established a program which encourages employee participation by awarding 10% of the total economic benefit of any implemented suggestion, up to a maximum award of $35,000. Licata, a machinist employed by the Postal Service, submitted a suggestion in July 1989 for a modified roller for one of the Service's package sorters. Licata's suggestion was implemented at the local level and research indicated that if implemented nationwide, the modified roller could save the Service $500,000 in the first year. Although the modification was formally disapproved for national implementation in June 1991, Licata claims that the Service continued to authorize the manufacture and use of the rollers without paying him his share of the savings.

On March 31, 1993, Licata filed suit in the District Court for the District of New Jersey seeking $35,000 damages, as well as interest, costs, and attorney's fees. He alleged jurisdiction under 39 U.S.C. § 409(a) (1988) and 28 U.S.C. § 1339 (1988). Both parties and the district court read the complaint to allege some kind of common law breach of contract claim. App. at 16 n.3, 73-74, 159. The Service filed a Motion to Dismiss or, in the Alternative, for Summary Judgment prior to filing an answer, arguing that the district court lacked subject matter jurisdiction, that the complaint failed to state a claim upon which relief could be granted, or that summary judgment should be entered based on the affidavit and exhibits attached to the motion.

The district court dismissed the complaint for lack of subject matter jurisdiction, reasoning that section 409(a) was insufficient to maintain jurisdiction without a cause of action, and that if the claim sounded in contract it was barred by the Tucker Act. See Licata v. United States Postal Serv., No. Civ.A.93-1386, 1993 WL 388974, at 3-4 (D.N.J. Sept. 22, 1993). This timely appeal followed. We exercise plenary review over questions of subject matter jurisdiction. See Packard v. Provident Nat'l Bank, 994 F.2d 1039, 1044 (3d Cir.), cert. denied, 114 S. Ct. 440 (1993).*fn1

II.

Discussi ...


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