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Michael J. Ruddy and Cherilynn M. Ruddy v. United States of America

July 18, 2012


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Judge Caputo


Presently before the Court is the Defendants' Motion to Dismiss. (Doc. 27.) Because I find that Plaintiffs' claims against the sole Defendant--the United States of America--are precluded by a combination of the Federal Employees' Compensation Act and the Civil Service Reform Act, this action will be dismissed.


Plaintiff alleges the following in his Amended Complaint. (Doc. 22.) Plaintiff Michael

J. Ruddy, at all relevant times, was a loyal employee of the Untied States Post Office in Scranton, Pennsylvania. His wife, Cherilynn M. Ruddy, is also a Plaintiff in this matter. The named Defendants include the United States of America; the United States Postal Service; the United States Postmaster General John E. Potter; the Postmaster of the Scranton Post Office, Linda Shall; several Scranton Post Office supervisors, including Brian Tucker, Christopher Pugliese, Lisa Bansa, Diane Passerilli, and Rick Dickson; as well as Holly Shope, who was a manager at the Scranton Post Office. (Am. Compl. at ¶¶ 7-16, Doc. 1).

Ruddy's supervisors engaged in a course of malicious conduct designed to force him to resign. No other Post Office employee was similarly targeted. In particular, Supervisor Dickson consistently singled out Ruddy, insisting that he sort mail at a rate beyond what was required by policy in order to dismiss him earlier from work. (Id. at ¶¶ 36-37). Furthermore, Dickson threatened on three occasions, against policy, to shadow Ruddy for an entire day. Sometime in November of 2006, this harassment began to affect Ruddy's health, requiring him to see a physician. One specific incident of harassment finally forced a meeting between Dickson and Ruddy with a Union Steward present. At that meeting, Ruddy told Dickson "I want the harassment to stop," to which Dickson replied "why don't you bid out of my unit." (Id. at ¶¶ 41-44).

While Dickson harassed Ruddy about seventy-five percent (75%) of the time, this percentage increased to ninety percent (90%) when Temporary Supervisor Passerilli took over as Ruddy's supervisor. (Id. at ¶¶ 48-51). Other mail carriers took notice and asked Ruddy why Passerilli was psychologically attacking him. (Id. at ¶¶ 57-58). On March 18, 2009, Passerilli intimidated Ruddy, watching him as he arrived at work. Five minutes later, she approached Ruddy at his station, instructing him to assist on another employee's mail route. Ruddy explained that this was not possible, and asked to speak to a Union Steward. Ruddy then found himself at Passerilli's desk, surrounded by Defendants Shall, Tucker, Passerilli and one other unidentified supervisor. Ruddy began to sweat, developed chest pain and shortness of breath, and experienced "dagger like pain going through his back and tingling in his left leg." (Id. at ¶ 69). Plaintiff phoned his wife, in front of the group, who agreed to call his doctor. Ruddy then retrieved medication from his vehicle, which had been prescribed for his workplace stress. Ruddy's Doctor, after being delayed by Defendants, finally got Ruddy on the phone and advised him to go to the hospital, which he did. Throughout the entire ordeal, Ruddy requested a Union Steward three or four times, although none was provided. Moreover, Defendants Tucker and Passerilli carefully watched Ruddy to ensure that he did not contact a Union Steward. As a result of these events, the Union filed two grievances that were settled in Ruddy's favor. (Id. at ¶ 121). Ruddy also filed an injury claim with the U.S. Department of Labor, Office of Workers' Compensation Programs (OWCP), which the Defendants maliciously challenged.

In his Amended Complaint, Ruddy claims that the Defendants caused him to suffer emotional distress, humiliation, anxiety, embarrassment, depression, loss of enjoyment of life, and pain and suffering. (Id. at ¶ 143). As such, Ruddy was prevented from performing his work, was caused to have a physical and psychological breakdown, and was forced to retire early.

In his initial Complaint filed on June 8, 2011, Plaintiffs brought claims under the Federal Tort Claims Act, and asserted state-law claims for conspiracy; invasion of privacy; constructive discharge; libel and slander; intentional infliction of emotional distress; and loss of consortium. On November 21, 2011, I granted the Defendants' motion to dismiss as to the libel and slander claim (Count III) and false light and intrusion upon seclusion claim (Count V). Leave to amend was granted as to the libel and slander claim only. I also struck several claims for punitive damages and substituted the United States as the sole defendant as to all claims except Constructive Discharge.

Today, the Defendants again move to dismiss this action for lack of subject matter jurisdiction under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(1). In particular, the Defendants argue that Ruddy's claims are bared by the Federal Employees' Compensation Act ("FECA"), 5 U.S.C. § 8101 et seq., and the Civil Service Reform Act of 1978 ("CSRA"), 5 U.S.C. § 1101 et seq. The motion has been fully briefed and is ripe for the Court's review.


I. Legal Standard

Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(1) provides for the dismissal of a complaint, in whole or in part, for a "lack of subject-matter jurisdiction." See Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(1). Rule 12(b)(1) motions may take one of two forms: a facial attack to the sufficiency of the pleading or a factual attack. See Democracy Rising PA v. Celluci, 603 F. Supp. 2d 780, 788 (M.D. Pa. 2009). A factual attack involves a claim "that the court in fact lacks subject-matter jurisdiction, no matter what the complaint alleges." NE Hub Partners, L.P. v. CNG Transmission Corp., 239 F.3d 333, 341 (3d Cir. 2001) (citing Mortensen v. First Fed. Sav. & Loan Ass'n, 549 F.2d 884, 891 (3d Cir. 1977)).

When subject-matter jurisdiction is factually challenged pursuant to Rule 12(b)(1), the plaintiff bears the burden of persuasion. Hedges v. United States, 404 F.3d 744, 750 (3d Cir. 2005) (citing Kehr Packages, Inc. v. Fidelcor, Inc., 926 F.2d 1406, 1409 (3d Cir.1991)); see also Gould Elecs. Inc. v. United States, 220 F.3d 169, 178 (3d Cir. 2000). This is a much more demanding standard than that applied to Rule 12(b)(6). Id. And, "[b]ecause at issue in a factual 12(b)(1) motion is the trial court's jurisdiction its very power to hear the case there is substantial authority that the trial court is free to weigh the evidence and satisfy itself as to the existence of its power to hear the case." Mortensen, 549 F.2d at 891. Thus, "in reviewing a factual attack, the court may consider evidence outside of the pleadings." Gould Elecs., 220 F.3d at 176 (citing Gotha v. United States, 115 F.3d 176, 178--79 (3d Cir.1997)). As such, "no ...

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