United States District Court, E.D. Missouri, Eastern Division
MEMORANDUM AND ORDER
STEPHEN N. LIMBAUGH, JR. UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
Jovica Petrovic, proceeding pro se and in forma
pauperis, filed the instant Complaint Under Federal Tort
Claims Act (FTCA) Claim for Damage against the United States
of America, seeking declaratory relief and compensatory and
punitive damages totaling over $50, 000, 000.00. The
complaint will be dismissed.
Standard on Initial Review
28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2), the Court is required to dismiss
a complaint filed in forma pauperis if it is
frivolous, malicious, or fails to state a claim upon which
relief can be granted. To state a claim for relief, a
complaint must plead more than “legal
conclusions” and “[t]hreadbare recitals of the
elements of a cause of action [that are] supported by mere
conclusory statements.” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556
U.S. 662, 678 (2009). A plaintiff must demonstrate a
plausible claim for relief, which is more than a “mere
possibility of misconduct.” Id. at 679.
“A claim has facial plausibility when the plaintiff
pleads factual content that allows the court to draw the
reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the
misconduct alleged.” Id. at 678.
reviewing a pro se complaint under § 1915(e)(2), the
Court must give it the benefit of a liberal construction.
Haines v. Kerner, 404 U.S. 519, 520 (1972). However,
this does not mean that pro se complaints may be
merely conclusory. Even pro se complaints are
required to allege facts which, if true, state a claim for
relief as a matter of law. Martin v. Aubuchon, 623
F.2d 1282, 1286 (8th Cir. 1980); see also Stone v.
Harry, 364 F.3d 912, 914-15 (8th Cir. 2004) (federal
courts are not required to “assume facts that are not
alleged, just because an additional factual allegation would
have formed a stronger complaint”). In addition,
affording a pro se complaint the benefit of a
liberal construction does not mean that procedural rules in
ordinary civil litigation must be interpreted so as to excuse
mistakes by those who proceed without counsel. See McNeil
v. U.S., 508 U.S. 106, 113 (1993).
an inmate in the Bureau of Prisons, avers that, on July 19,
2010, United States Postal Inspection Service agents executed
a search warrant at his residence and seized numerous items,
including an Apple laptop computer. (Docket No. 1, Attch. 1,
avers that he began filing motions seeking return of the
seized property. In one of those cases, Petrovic v.
United States, Case No. 4:15-cv-1439-HEA (E.D. Mo.
2015), the government forwarded a settlement proposal to
plaintiff dated December 4, 2015, in which it advised,
inter alia, that many items seized from
plaintiff's residence had been destroyed pursuant to the
U.S. Postal Inspection Service's procedures, and the
Apple computer had been “reformatted.”
(Id. at p. 26).
case at bar, plaintiff alleges that the reformatting caused
the loss of “thousands” of pictures of family and
friends, documents and business contracts for which plaintiff
paid hundreds of thousands of dollars, patent blueprints and
development documents, and software, including “oracle
software” that plaintiff values at over $100, 000.00.
(Docket No. 1 at 7). Plaintiff avers that he did not know the
reformatting had occurred until he read the December 2015
settlement proposal. He does not specify that he seeks relief
for loss or damage to any other property.
well established that the United States is entitled to
sovereign immunity, and cannot be sued without its consent.
Honda v. Clark, 386 U.S. 484, 501 (1967). “To
alleviate the harshness of this rule, Congress enacted the
Federal Tort Claims Act which permits civil actions against
the United States for personal injury and property damage
caused by ‘the negligent or wrongful act or omission of
any employee of the Government while acting within the scope
of his office or employment.'” Lambertson v.
United States, 528 F.2d 441, 443 (2d Cir. 1976). The
FTCA is strictly construed in favor of the sovereign.
Lane v. Pena, 518 U.S. 187, 192 (1996). There are
many claims that cannot lie against the United States under
the FTCA pursuant to enumerated exceptions found in 28 U.S.C.
here is the exception in subsection (c), which provides, in
relevant part, that the United States may not be sued for
“[a]ny claim arising in respect of the assessment or
collection of any tax or customs duty, or the detention of
any goods, merchandise, or other property by any officer of
customs or excise or any other law enforcement
officer[.]” 28 U.S.C. § 2680(c). This exception,
referred to as the “detention of goods”
exception, is interpreted broadly. The Supreme Court has held
that the phrase “any other law enforcement
officer” had to be interpreted broadly as applying to
law enforcement officers of any kind. Ali v. Federal
Bureau of Prisons, 552 U.S. 214 (2008). In Kosak v.
United States, 465 U.S. 848, 854 (1984), the Supreme
Court held that the detention of goods exception applies not
only to intentional conduct by government employees, but also
to “any claim ‘arising out of' the detention
of goods, . . . includ[ing] a claim resulting from negligent
handling or storage of detained property.” Property
seized by law enforcement officers and transferred to a third
party is deemed still “detained” by the officers.
Parrott v. United States, 536 F.3d 629, 636 (7th
Cir. 2008); Hatten v. White, 275 F.3d 1208, 1210
(10th Cir. 2002); Schlaebitz v. U.S. Dept. of
Justice, 924 F.2d 193, 194 (11th Cir. 1991) (per
curiam). Subsection (c) does not except cases involving
property seized solely for the purposes of forfeiture.
See 28 U.S.C. § 2680(c). A seizure of property
pursuant to a search warrant, as in the case at bar, has not
been done solely for the purpose of forfeiture. Foster v.
United States, 522 F.3d 1071, 1075-76 (9th Cir. 2008).
case at bar, based upon plaintiff's assertions in the
complaint, the Apple computer was seized from his possession
pursuant to a search warrant, and therefore not solely for
the purpose of forfeiture. It was then detained within the
control and possession of the United States. It is during
such detention that plaintiff alleges the reformatting
occurred. Based upon the detention of goods exception of
§ 2680(c), the United States retained its sovereign
liberally construed the complaint, the Court concludes that
it: (1) seeks monetary relief against a defendant who is
immune, and (2) fails to state a claim upon which relief can
be granted because it fails to describe any acts or omissions
giving rise to liability under the FTCA, and plaintiff
asserts no other valid basis for relief. The Complaint Under
Federal Tort Claims Act (FTCA) Claim for Damage will
therefore be dismissed pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §
IT IS HEREBY ORDERED that the complaint is DISMISSED. A
separate order of ...