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Garland v. US Airways

IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT FOR THE WESTERN DISTRICT OF PENNSYLVANIA


January 30, 2007

PHILIP A. GARLAND, PLAINTIFF,
v.
US AIRWAYS, INC., ET AL., DEFENDANTS.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Ambrose, Chief District Judge.

OPINION and ORDER OF COURT

On or about November 28, 2005, pro se Plaintiff Philip A. Garland ("Plaintiff" or "Garland") filed, with leave of court, a 17-count Second Amended Complaint in the above-captioned action against 24 defendants including Defendants Rick Davies and Harold Simpson (collectively, "Federal Defendants"), arising out of the termination of Plaintiff's employment as a pilot for US Airways. See Docket No. 13. On August 24, 2006, I granted the United States of America's Motion to substitute itself for the Federal Defendants with respect to the tort counts against the Federal Defendants set forth in Counts 7, 8, 9, 10, 15, and 17 of Plaintiff's Second Amended Complaint. See Docket No. 94.*fn1 Pending is the United States' Motion to Dismiss those six counts pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(1). (Docket No. 63). After a careful review of the submissions by the parties and for the reasons discussed in this Opinion, the Motion to Dismiss is granted.

I. BACKGROUND

A. Factual Background

Unless otherwise noted, the facts in this section are taken from Plaintiff's Second Amended Complaint.

Plaintiff was employed by Defendant US Airways as a pilot from 1982*fn2 until the termination of that employment on or about April 27, 2001.*fn3 At all pertinent times, Plaintiff was a dues-paying member of ALPA, the collective bargaining representative for airline pilots, including Plaintiff. ALPA filed a grievance on behalf of Plaintiff under the collective bargaining agreement ("CBA"), challenging the termination of Plaintiff's employment. Defendant US Airways Pilot's System Board of Adjustment ("System Board"), a five-member federal labor arbitration board, held an evidentiary hearing on Plaintiff's grievance on or about July 17, 2002. On February 7, 2003, the System Board issued a final opinion and award finding that US Airways was justified, pursuant to the CBA, in its decision to terminate Plaintiff's employment.

At the time of the incidents alleged in the Second Amended Complaint, the Federal Defendants were employees of the Federal Aviation Administration ("FAA"). Plaintiff contends, among other things, that the Federal Defendants conspired with the other defendants and engaged in actions that deprived him of his Airline Transport Pilot ("ATP") Certification, without which Plaintiff could no longer fly commercial airplanes. As a result, Plaintiff alleges that the Federal Defendants are liable for certain state tort causes of action, among others. The tort causes of action at issue are set forth in Counts 7, 8, 9, 10, 15, and 17 of the Second Amended Complaint.*fn4

B. Procedural History

Plaintiff commenced this action on February 7, 2005 by filing an Application to Proceed in Forma Pauperis and attaching thereto a copy of his Complaint. (Docket No. 1). I granted Plaintiff's Application to Proceed in Forma Pauperis on February 10, 2005, and Plaintiff's Complaint was deemed filed on that date. (Docket No. 2). Plaintiff never requested issuance of a summons and none was issued. On June 29, 2005, I granted Plaintiff's Motion to Amend his Complaint. (Docket No. 7). Plaintiff's First Amended Complaint named four new defendants. Again, there was no indication in the record that Plaintiff requested the issuance of a summons and none was issued. Plaintiff did not file a waiver of service of summons or adequate proof of service with respect to either his original or first amended Complaint.

After over 120 days passed from when Plaintiff filed both his original and first Amended Complaints, my deputy clerk wrote to Plaintiff requesting that he file, by November 14, 2005, either proof of service or a written explanation of why service had not been made. In response, Plaintiff filed a Motion to Amend his Complaint a second time to add a new Defendant and new allegations of retaliatory conduct. (Docket No. 11).

I granted Plaintiff's Motion to Amend on or about November 28, 2005, and his 127-page, 17-count Second Amended Complaint was deemed filed as of that date. (Docket No. 13). The United States filed the instant Motion to Dismiss and supporting brief on June 29, 2006. (Docket Nos. 63, 64).*fn5 Plaintiff opposes the United States' Motion. (Docket No. 87). The Motion is now ripe for my review.

II. LEGAL ANALYSIS

A. Standard of Review

The United States challenges the jurisdiction of the court to address the merits of Counts 7, 8, 9, 10, 15, and 17 of Plaintiff's Second Amended Complaint against it. A motion to dismiss pursuant to Rule 12(b)(1) may present either a facial or a factual challenge to subject matter jurisdiction. Mortensen v. First Fed. Sav. & Loan Ass'n, 549 F.2d 884, 891 (3d Cir.1977). In contrast to a Rule 12(b)(6) motion or a Rule 12(b)(1) motion based on immateriality, a Rule 12(b)(1) motion based on the existence of jurisdiction in fact does not incorporate the presumption of truthfulness of the plaintiff's allegations. See id. Furthermore, the plaintiff bears the burden of persuading the court that it has jurisdiction as compared to the burden of the defendant under a Rule 12(b)(6) motion of convincing the court that the plaintiff has failed to state a claim. Kehr Packages, Inc. v. Fidelcor, Inc., 926 F.2d 1406, 1409 (3d Cir. 1991). In further distinction to a Rule 12(b)(6) motion, when considering a Rule 12(b)(1) motion, the court may "go outside the bounds of the complaint" and make factual findings which are decisive to the issue, relying on evidence such as affidavits, depositions and other testimony. Cohen v. Kurtzman, 45 F. Supp. 2d 423, 429 (D.N.J. 1999) (citing Employers Ins. of Wausau v. Crown Cork & Seal Co., 905 F.2d 42, 45 (3d Cir. 1990)); Kennedy v. Runyon, 933 F. Supp. 480, 482 (W.D. Pa. 1996). If I determine that this Court does not have subject matter jurisdiction over the case, I must dismiss the action.

In considering this Motion, I am cognizant of the fact that, as a pro se litigant, Plaintiff is entitled to a "less stringent" interpretation of his pleadings than those applied to "formal pleadings drafted by lawyers." Haines v. Kerner, 404 U.S. 519, 520 (1972); Molina v. City of Lancaster, 159 F. Supp. 2d 813, 818 (E.D. Pa. 2001).

B. Lack of Jurisdiction

The Westfall Act, also known as the Federal Employees Liability Reform and Tort Compensation Act, amended the Federal Tort Claims Act ("FTCA"), and "provides federal employees acting within the scope of their employment absolute immunity from damage liability on state law tort claims." Brumfield v. Sanders, 232 F.3d 376, 379 (3d Cir. 2000); see 28 U.S.C. § 2679(b)(1). The exclusive remedy for state common law torts committed by federal employees acting within the scope of their employment is against the United States under the FTCA. Schrob v. Catterson, 967 F.2d 929, 934 (3d Cir. 1992).

The United States argues that this Court lacks jurisdiction over Plaintiff's tort claims against it because Plaintiff failed to present a proper administrative claim as required under the FTCA. See 28 U.S.C. §§ 2401, 2675(a). I agree.

The FTCA specifically requires that a claimant "present" an administrative claim to the appropriate federal agency prior to commencing suit against the United States in federal court. 28 U.S.C. § 2675(a)*fn6 ; see also McNeil v. United States, 508 U.S. 106, 113 (1993). The claim must be in writing and must be for a sum certain. See 28 U.S.C. § 2401(b); 28 C.F.R. § 14.2; Deutsch v. United States, 67 F.3d 1080, 1091 (3d Cir. 1995). These requirements are jurisdictional prerequisites to a suit under the FTCA and cannot be waived. Id.; see also Valenzuela v. Thrifty Rent-A-Car, No. Civ. A. 94-7752, 1995 WL 708109, at *3 (E.D. Pa. Nov. 20, 1995) ("The filing of an administrative claim is a jurisdictional requirement and an absolute prerequisite to maintaining a civil action against the government under the FTCA."); Forbes v. Reno, 893 F. Supp. 476, 481 (W.D. Pa. 1995) (Ambrose, J.), aff'd, 91 F.3d 123 (3d Cir. 1996).

Here, there is no indication in the Second Amended Complaint or otherwise that Plaintiff filed an administrative claim with the FAA with respect to his claims against the United States prior to filing this lawsuit. Moreover, the Assistant Chief Counsel for Litigation for the FAA has declared that the FAA has no record of any such claim filed by, or on behalf of, Plaintiff. See Declaration of Richard A. Saltsman (Docket No. 64, Ex. A). Because Plaintiff failed to present a proper administrative claim involving his current claims against the United States, this court lacks jurisdiction over those claims, and they must be dismissed. See, e.g., McNeil, 508 U.S. at 113; Forbes, 893 F. Supp. at 481; Valenzuela, 1995 WL 708109, at *3.*fn7

III. CONCLUSION

For the reasons set forth above, this Court lacks jurisdiction over Plaintiff's claims against the United States in Counts 7, 8, 9, 10, 15 and 17 of the Second Amended Complaint, and the United States' Motion to Dismiss those claims is granted.

ORDER OF COURT

AND NOW, this 30th day of January, 2007, after careful consideration of the parties' submissions and for the reasons set forth in the Opinion accompanying this Order, it is ORDERED that the United States' Motion to Dismiss, With Prejudice, Counts 7, 8, 9, 10, 15, & 17 of Plaintiff's Second Amended Complaint (Docket No. 63) is GRANTED and that the claims against the United States set forth in Counts 7, 8, 9, 10, 15 and 17 of Plaintiff's Second Amended Complaint are dismissed.

Donetta W. Ambrose, Chief U. S. District Judge


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