United States District Court, E.D. Missouri, Eastern Division
MEMORANDUM AND ORDER
L. WHITE, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
matter is before the Court on Defendant United States of
America's ("Defendant USA") Motion to Dismiss
for Lack of Subject Matter Jurisdiction. (ECF No. 24) The
motion is fully briefed and ready for disposition. Upon
thorough consideration of the motion and related memoranda
and exhibits, the Court finds it lacks subject matter
jurisdiction and will therefore grant Defendant USA's
motion and dismiss the claims against Defendant USA set forth
in Plaintiffs' Complaint.
September 1, 2017, Plaintiffs filed a Complaint in federal
court, alleging Defendant Aaron Booker, Jr.
("Booker"), a United States Postal Service
("USPS") worker, caused a vehicle accident on March
29, 2016 while driving a USPS vehicle, injuring the driver,
Plaintiff Norvett Vardiman, and her passengers, Plaintiffs
Ronnie Gooch, Ania Warner, Michael Hudson, Dennis Royal-Reed,
and Charles Singleton. (Compl. ¶¶ 11-16, ECF No. 1)
Specifically, the record shows Booker was employed by the
USPS as a City Carrier from March 9, 2013 through May 27,
2016. (Def.'s Ex. A, ECF No. 25-2) He was assigned to
Postal Route 3941, which covered an area within and around an
area known as the Hill neighborhood in St. Louis, Missouri.
(Def. Ex. B, ECF No. 25-3; Boyd-Garner Dep. 48:22-49:4,
Def.'s Ex. N, ECF No. 25-15) The route was about a mile
and a half from Booker's tour-of-duty station at the
Southwest Station Post Office. (Booker Dep. 35:13-23,
Def.'s Ex. O, ECF No. 25-16; Def.'s Ex. A) His shift
began at 8:00 AM and finished at 4:30 PM. (Def.'s Ex. C,
ECF No. 25-4)
March 29, 2016, between 4:20 and 4:30 PM, Plaintiffs were
driving eastbound on Interstate 70 ("1-70") through
downtown St. Louis, near the St. Louis Arch grounds.
(Def.'s Ex. E, ECF No. 25-6) Their vehicle was struck by
a USPS vehicle driven by Booker, who left the scene of the
accident. Plaintiffs attempted to pursue the postal vehicle
and were able to contact 911 and provide a photo of the
vehicle's license number. (Def.'s Ex. E p. 5;
Def.'s Ex. F, ECF No. 25-7)
Postal Handbook provides, "[d]o not deviate from your
route for meals or other purposes unless authorized by your
manager or if local policies concerning handling out of
sequence mail permit minor deviations." (Def.'s Ex G
p. 2 ¶ 131.31, ECF No. 25-8) Booker admitted no one is
authorized to be outside their route during hours of the
postal service. (Booker Dep. 41:24-25) He was not authorized
to be downtown on 1-70 on the date of the accident.
(Boyd-Garner Dep. 68:18-69:5) After being notified of the
incident, Booker's Station Manager, Karen Boyd-Garner,
began an investigation which revealed black scuff marks and
dents on the postal vehicle. (Boyd-Garner Dep. 12:19-13-10;
Def.'s Ex. H, ECF No. 25-9) When confronted about the
incident the following day, Booker denied any involvement and
claimed he was the victim of a hit and run on Hampton Avenue.
(Def.'s Ex. I, ECF No. 25-10) During his deposition,
Booker stated he was not driving at the time of the accident,
but someone else could have used the vehicle. (Booker Dep.
vehicle utilization report for Booker's vehicle on the
date in question indicated he deviated 34 miles off his
route. (Def.'s Ex. J, ECF No. 25-11) An activity report
for Booker's March 29 route showed he made a scan at
14:56 PM and no other scan until his last delivery at 16:40
PM. He returned to the office at 16:49 PM. (Def.'s Ex. K,
ECF No. 25-12) Ms. Boyd-Garner surmised Booker removed the
battery from his scanner during this hour and fifteen minute
time period of no activity. (Id. at p. 4) Pursuant
to the internal investigation, Booker was placed on off-duty
status and ultimately removed from employment on May 27,
2016. (Def.'s Ex. L, ECF No. 25-13; Def.'s Ex. M, ECF
Plaintiffs Complaint, they bring claims against Defendant USA
pursuant to the Federal Tort Claims Act ("FTCA"),
28 U.S.C. §§ 2671, et seq. Plaintiffs
previously submitted administrative tort claims against
Defendant USA, but the claims were denied on the grounds that
Booker was not acting within the scope of his employment.
Thereafter, Plaintiffs filed their Complaint in federal
court, alleging Defendant USA is liable for the acts of
Booker under the theory of respondeat superior because he was
acting within the scope of his employment duties at the time
of the collision (Counts I, V, IX, XIII, XVII, and XXI).
Plaintiffs further allege Defendant USA negligently
hired/trained Booker (Counts II, VI, X, XIV, XVIII, and
XXII). Finally, Plaintiffs contend Defendant USA negligently
supervised/retained Booker as an employee (Counts III, VII,
XI, XV, XIX, and XXIII).
August 29, 2019, Defendant USA filed the instant motion to
dismiss, asserting the Court lacks subject matter
jurisdiction because Booker was not acting within the scope
of his employment at the time of the vehicle accident.
Plaintiff responds Booker was acting in the course and scope
of his employment when he crashed his USPS vehicle into
Plaintiffs' vehicle. Defendant USA further asserts it is
entitled to the discretionary function exception under the
FTCA. Plaintiffs deny the discretionary function exception
applies because Booker was allegedly driving while on a
suspended license at the time of the accident.
courts are courts of limited jurisdiction. The requirement
that jurisdiction be established as a threshold matter
springs from the nature and limits of the judicial power of
the United States and is inflexible and without
exception." Godfrey v. Pulitzer Pub. Co., 161
F.3d 1137, 1141 (8th Cir. 1998) (internal citations and
quotation marks omitted). "The purpose of a Rule
12(b)(1) motion is to allow the court to address the
threshold question of jurisdiction, as 'judicial economy
demands that the issue be decided at the outset rather than
deferring it until trial.'" B.A. v.
Missouri, No. 2:16 CV 72 CDP, 2017 WL 106433, at *1
(E.D. Mo. Jan. 11, 2017) (quoting Osborn v. United
States, 918 F.2d 724, 729 (8th Cir. 1990)). To dismiss a
complaint for lack of subject matter jurisdiction pursuant to
Rule 12(b)(1), '"the complaint must be successfully
challenged on its face or on the factual truthfulness of its
averments.'" Swiish v.' Nixon, No.
4:14-CV-2089 CAS, 2015 WL 867650, at *2 (E.D. Mo. Feb. 27,
2015) (quoting Titus v. Sullivan, 4 F.3d 590, 593
(8th Cir. 1993)). "Where, as here, a party brings a
factual attack, a district court may look outside the
pleadings to affidavits or other documents." Moss v.
United States, 895 F.3d 1091, 1097 (8th Cir. 2018)
(citation omitted). Further, in a factual attack "the
party invoking federal jurisdiction must prove jurisdictional
facts by a preponderance of the evidence." Id.
United States is immune from a law suit unless it consents.
Riley v. United States, 486 F.3d 1030, 1032 (8th
Cir. 2007). However, Congress waived this sovereign immunity
'"by enacting the FTCA, under which the federal
government is liable for certain torts its agents commit in
the course of their employment.'" 7d. (quoting
C.R. S. by D.B.S. v. United States, 11 F.3d 791, 795
(8th Cir.1993)). "The FTCA serves as a limited waiver of
sovereign immunity, opening the door to state-law liability
claims against the federal government for harm caused by
government employees." Buckler v. United
States, 919 F.3d 1038, 1044 (8th Cir. 2019). The FTCA
"waives sovereign immunity in two different sections of
the United States Code. The first confers federal-court
jurisdiction in a defined category of cases involving
negligence committed by federal employees in the course of
their employment." Dolan v. U.S. Postal Serv.,
546 U.S. 481, 484 (2006); see also 28 U.S.C. §
1346(b)(1). The second waiver makes the United States liable
"in the same manner and to the same extent as a private
individual under like circumstances, but [ ] not [ ] for
interest prior to judgment or for punitive damages." 28
U.S.C. § 2674; Dolan, 546 U.S. at 485.
FTCA also exempts certain categories of claims set forth in
28 U.S.C. § 2680 such that the bar of sovereign immunity
remains. Dolan, 546 U.S. at 485. Applicable to this
case, the discretionary function exception in 28 U.S.C.
§ 2680(a) places a statutory limitation on this waiver
by precluding "suit against the government for harm
caused by a government employee's acts if those acts are
subject to discretion that is 'grounded in social,
economic, and political policy.'" Buckler,
919 F.3d at 1044 (quoting Herden v. United States,
726 F.3d 1042, 1047 (8th Cir. 2013)). "A waiver of
sovereign immunity is strictly construed in favor of the
United States, and the party bringing suit bears the burden
of demonstrating waiver." May v. United States,
No. 17-04157-NKL, 2017 WL 6419298, at *2 (W.D. Mo.
Dec. 15, 2017) (citations omitted).