IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT FOR THE MIDDLE DISTRICT OF PENNSYLVANIA
August 5, 2011
TERRY FAISON WILLIAMS, AS POWER OF ATTORNEY FOR HER FATHER, LOUIS T. FAISON, SR., PLAINTIFF,
UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, DEFENDANT.
The opinion of the court was delivered by: Hon. John E. Jones III
THE BACKGROUND OF THIS MEMORANDUM IS AS FOLLOWS:
Pending before the Court is the United States of America's Motion to Dismiss, or in the Alternative, for Summary Judgment ("the Motion") (Doc. 14), filed on May 20, 2011. Plaintiff*fn1 filed a brief in opposition to the Motion on July 8, 2011. (Doc. 27). The United States has not filed a reply and the time to do so has passed. Accordingly, this matter is ripe for our review.
This Federal Torts Claim Act ("FTCA") action was filed, through Plaintiff's former counsel, on January 28, 2011. The action was styled as Plaintiff Terry Faison Williams, as Power of Attorney for her Father, Louis T. Faison, Sr. versus the United States of America. The action arises out of the alleged wrongful death of Louis Thomas Faison, Jr. while he was an inmate at the United States Penitentiary at Lewisburg, Pennsylvania ("USP-Lewsiburg"). Plaintiff Terry Faison Williams is attempting to bring the wrongful death action on her father's behalf, via a power of attorney she has from her father, Louis T. Faison, Sr.
On May 20, 2011, the United States of America filed the instant Motion arguing for the dismissal of this case based on Terry Faison Williams' lack of standing to pursue a FTCA claim related to her brother's death while incarcerated at USP-Lewisburg because she is not the personal representative of the decedent's estate.*fn2 The Plaintiff has filed an opposition brief to the pending Motion, asserting that she does have standing to sue the United States on her father's behalf for the alleged wrongful death of her brother.
II. STANDARD OF REVIEW*fn3
Summary judgment is appropriate if the record establishes "that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law." Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(c). Initially, the moving party bears the burden of demonstrating the absence of a genuine issue of material fact. Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323 (1986). The movant meets this burden by pointing to an absence of evidence supporting an essential element as to which the non-moving party will bear the burden of proof at trial. Id. at 325. Once the moving party meets its burden, the burden then shifts to the non-moving party to show that there is a genuine issue for trial. Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(e)(2). An issue is "genuine" only if there is a sufficient evidentiary basis for a reasonable jury to find for the non-moving party, and a factual dispute is "material" only if it might affect the outcome of the action under the governing law. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc, 477 U.S. 242, 248-49 (1986).
In opposing summary judgment, the non-moving party "may not rely merely on allegations of denials in its own pleadings; rather, its response must ... set out specific facts showing a genuine issue for trial." Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(e)(2). The non-moving party "cannot rely on unsupported allegations, but must go beyond pleadings and provide some evidence that would show that there exists a genuine issue for trial." Jones v. United Parcel Serv., 214 F.3d 402, 407 (3d Cir. 2000). Arguments made in briefs "are not evidence and cannot by themselves create a factual dispute sufficient to defeat a summary judgment motion." Jersey Cent. Power & Light Co. v. Twp. of Lacey, 772 F.2d 1103, 1109-10 (3d Cir. 1985). However, the facts and all reasonable inferences drawn therefrom must be viewed in the light most favorable to the non- moving party. P.N. v. Clementon Bd. of Educ., 442 F.3d 848, 852 (3d Cir. 2006).
Summary judgment should not be granted when there is a disagreement about the facts or the proper inferences that a factfinder could draw from them. Peterson v. Lehigh Valley Dist. Council, 676 F.2d 81, 84 (3d Cir. 1982). Still, "the mere existence of some alleged factual dispute between the parties will not defeat an otherwise properly supported motion for summary judgment; there must be a genuine issue of material fact to preclude summary judgment." Anderson, 477 U.S. at 247-48.
The undisputed facts relevant to our inquiry herein are as follows. The decedent, Louis Thomas Faison, Jr. died on April 2, 2008, while he was an inmate at USP-Lewisburg. On March 11, 2010, Veta B. Faison was certified as the Administrator of the Estate of Louis Thomas Faison, Jr. in the Commonwealth of Virginia.Thereafter, on December 21, 2010, Veta B. Faison filed a wrongful death claim in this Court, docketed at 4:10-cv-2603.*fn4
It is well established that pursuant to Pennsylvania Rule of Civil Procedure 2202, actions for wrongful death may only be brought by the personal representative of the decedent. Further, while a personal representative's wrongful death action is pending, the existence of such action bars the bringing of any other action for such wrongful death.See Pa. R. C. P. 2202.
Here, it is beyond dispute that Veta Faison is the personal representative for the estate of Louis Thomas Faison, Jr. and that she has already brought a wrongful death action in this Court arising out of the decedent's alleged wrongful death. Accordingly, based on the operation of Pa. R. C. P. 2202, Terry Faison Williams is barred from bringing the instant suit, either in her own capacity or with a power of attorney from her father. Veta Faison, as the personal representative of the decedent's estate, is the only party with standing to pursue a wrongful death claim here. Accordingly, because Plaintiff lacks standing to pursue this claim, the action must be dismissed.
Accordingly, based on all of the foregoing, the United States of America's Motion to Dismiss, or in the alternative, for Summary Judgment shall be granted and this action shall be dismissed. An appropriate Order shall issue.