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Spade v. United States Department of Justice

United States District Court, M.D. Pennsylvania

May 8, 2018

RANDALL L. SPADE, Plaintiff.
v.
THE UNITED STATES DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE, Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          Matthew W. Brann United States District Judge

         The United States Department of Justice moved to dismiss Plaintiff's Amended Complaint. For the reasons that follow, that motion will be granted.

         I. BACKGROUND [1]

         At all relevant times, Plaintiff Randall Spade was employed as a correctional officer at the United States Penitentiary in Lewisburg, Pennsylvania.[2] In September 2011, Mr. Spade learned that Defendant, the United States Department of Justice (“DOJ”), had inadvertently divulged Mr. Spade's personal information when responding to an inmate's Freedom of Information Act request.[3] This suit followed.

         Mr. Spade's Amended Complaint contains two counts. The first, brought under the Federal Tort Claims Act, states that the DOJ's handling and release of his personal information was negligent. The second likewise contends that the DOJ's actions were negligent, but is brought under the Pennsylvania Political Subdivision Tort Claims Act.[4]

         II. DISCUSSION

         A. Standard of Review

         When considering a motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim upon which relief may be granted, [5] a court assumes the truth of all factual allegations in the plaintiff's complaint and draws all inferences in favor of that party;[6] the court does not, however, assume the truth of any of the complaint's legal conclusions.[7] If a complaint's factual allegations, so treated, state a claim that is plausible - i.e., if they allow the court to infer the defendant's liability - the motion is denied; if they fail to do so, the motion is granted.[8]

         B. Whether Mr. Spade's Claim is Actionable Under the Federal Tort Claims Act

         The Federal Tort Claims Act (“FTCA”) provides a remedy for certain injuries caused by federal employees, by holding the United States liable “in the same manner and to the same extent as a private individual under like circumstances.”[9] To prevail on his negligence-based FTCA claim, then, Mr. Spade must show that the DOJ's conduct violated a duty owed to him under Pennsylvania law.[10]

         Mr. Spade has not satisfied his burden. Specifically, he has not pointed to any Pennsylvania authority creating liability for the negligent handling or disclosure of personal information, nor has this Court been able to find any. Because the DOJ's actions-while unfortunate-are not actionable under state tort law, they are not actionable under the FTCA. Consequently, this claim will be dismissed.

         C. Whether Mr. Space May Bring a Claim Against the United States Under the Pennsylvania Political Subdivision Tort Claims Act

         The Pennsylvania Political Subdivision Tort Claims Act waives Pennsylvania's sovereign immunity for certain claims brought against “local agenc[ies].”[11] Because the DOJ is not a local agency, this claim will be dismissed.

         III. ...


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