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Murray v. United States Postal Service

United States District Court, W.D. Pennsylvania

September 23, 2019

BRUCE MURRAY, Plaintiff
v.
UNITED STATES POSTAL SERVICE Defendant

          SUSAN PARADISE BAXTER, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

          REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION ON POSTAL SERVICE'S MOTION TO DISMISS [ECF NO. 10]

          RICHARD A. LANZILLO, UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE.

         I. Recommendation

         It is respectfully recommended that Postal Service's Motion to Dismiss (ECF No. 10) be GRANTED and Plaintiffs Complaint be dismissed with prejudice.

         II. Report

         A. Introduction

         Plaintiff Bruce Murray ("Murray"), a pro se litigant currently incarcerated at the State Correctional Institution Forest ("SCI Forest"), began this action by filing a complaint against the United States Postal Service ("Postal Service") in the Court of Common Pleas of Forrest County on January 11, 2019. ECF No. 1-1. The Postal Service then removed the case to this Court, under 28 U.S.C. § 1442(a)(1).[1] ECF No. 1. Pending before the Court is the Postal Service's Motion to Dismiss pursuant to Rule 12(b)(1) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. ECF No. 10. Murray has filed a response in opposition this motion. ECF No. 16. The motion is ready for disposition.

         B. Factual Background

         Murray's complaint alleges that he sought to mail a package containing a watch and a money order in the amount of $56.00 and that the contents of his package were lost because the package was delivered to the wrong address. ECF No. 1-1 ¶¶ 11, 17. As a consequence, Murray alleges one count of negligence and one count of theft against the Postal Service and seeks $5, 000.00 in damages as compensation. Id.

         C. Standard of Review

         The Postal Service moves to dismiss pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(1), challenging this Court's subject matter jurisdiction. ECF No. 10 ¶ 1. In deciding a Rule 12(b)(1) motion, the Third Circuit has recognized a "crucial distinction . . . between 12(b)(1) motions that attack the complaint on its face, and 12(b)(1) motions that attack the existence of subject matter jurisdiction, quite apart from any pleadings." Mortensen v. First Federal Sav. And Loan Ass'n, 549 F.2d 884, 891 (3d Cir. 1977). The first option, a facial attack, "is an argument that considers a claim on its face and asserts that it is insufficient to invoke the subject matter jurisdiction of the court because . . . some [] jurisdictional defect is present." Constitutional Party of Pa. v. Aichele, 757 F.3d 347, 358 (3d Cir. 2014). In other words, a "facial attack 'contests the sufficiency of the pleadings.'" Id. (quoting In re Schering Plough Corp. Intron Temodor Consumer Class Action, 678 F.3d 235, 243 (3d Cir. 2012)). For that reason, "[i]n reviewing a facial attack, 'the court must consider the allegations of the complaint and documents referenced therein and attached thereto, in the light most favorable to the plaintiff.'" Id. (see also Gould Electronics. Inc. v. United States, 220 F.3d 169, 176 (3d Cir. 2000)). "Thus, a facial attack calls for a district court to apply the same standard of review it would use in considering a motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6), i.e., construing the alleged facts in favor of the nonmoving party." Id.

         Here, the Postal Service's motion is properly understood as a facial attack because it argues that the allegations in Murray's complaint challenge actions the Postal Service undertook which are protected by sovereign immunity and over which this Court has no jurisdiction. ECF No. 11 ¶ 6. Consequently, the Court will "accept as true all [factual] allegations in the complaint and reasonable inferences that can be drawn from them after construing them in the light most favorable to the nonmovant" as it determines whether Murray has plead the factual allegations necessary to establish the Court's subject matter jurisdiction. Hartig Drug Inc. v. Senju Pharm. Co. Ltd., 836 F.3d 261, 268 (3d Cir. 2016).

         D. Discussion

         The United States, "as sovereign, is immune from suit save as it consents to be sued." United States v. Sherwood,312 U.S. 584, 586 (1941). Furthermore, "[t]he terms of its consent to be sued in any court define the court's jurisdiction to entertain the suit." Id. In White-Squire v. United States Postal Service,592 F.3d 453 (3d Cir. 2010), the Third Circuit described this doctrine of sovereign immunity as requiring the United States' "consent to be sued [to] be unequivocally expressed," and noted that the conditions on which the Government does consent to be sued "must be strictly observed and [that] exceptions thereto are not to be implied." Id. at 456, 458. Since the "Postal Service is an independent establishment of the executive branch of the government of the United States . .. [it] enjoys federal sovereign immunity absent a waiver." See Dolan v. U.S. Postal Service, 546 U.S. 481, 484-485 (2006); (see also F.D.I.C. v. Meyer,510 U.S. 471, 475 (1994)) ("Absent a waiver, sovereign ...


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