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Butts v. United States

United States District Court, E.D. Virginia, Norfolk Division

May 13, 2014

JACQUELINE RAY BUTTS, Plaintiff,
v.
UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, and DEPARTMENT OF DEFENSE, Defendants.[1]

MEMORANDUM ORDER

REBECCA BEACH SMITH, Chief District Judge.

This matter is before the court on the Motion to Dismiss ("Motion") filed by the Defendants, the United States of America and the Department of Defense, on March 28, 2014, pursuant to Federal Rules of Civil Procedure 12(b)(1) and 12(b)(6). ECF No. 13.

I. FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

The Plaintiff, Jacqueline Ray Butts, filed her original Complaint in this case on October 15, 2013. See Compl., ECF No. 1. In her original Complaint, the Plaintiff asserted claims against the Department of the Navy ("Navy") for negligence and invasion of privacy under the Federal Tort Claims Act ("FTCA"), and for violation of her civil rights under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. See Compl. at 1, 8. The Navy filed a Motion to Dismiss the Complaint on December 16, 2013. See Mot. to Dismiss, ECF No. 5. On March 5, 2014, the court issued a Memorandum Opinion warning the Plaintiff that her FTCA negligence claim would be dismissed unless she filed an amended complaint naming a proper defendant and alleging all the elements of a negligence claim; dismissing her FTCA invasion of privacy claim; and warning her that her civil rights claim would be dismissed unless she filed an amended complaint properly naming an individual federal agent or agents as responsible for her alleged civil rights injury. See Mem. Op. at 15-16, ECF No. 11.

On March 17, 2014, the Plaintiff timely filed an Amended Complaint. See Am. Compl., ECF No. 12. In her Amended Complaint, the Plaintiff asserts two claims against the United States and the Department of Defense: (1) negligence pursuant to the FTCA; and (2) a violation of civil rights pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. See id. 1111-27. The Amended Complaint is now the operative complaint in this case. Young v. City of Mount Ranier , 238 F.3d 567, 572 (4th Cir. 2001) ("As a general rule, an amended pleading ordinarily supersedes the original and renders it of no legal effect.'") (quoting Crysen/Montenay Energy Co. v. Shell Oil Co. (In re Crysen/Montenay Energy Co.) , 226 F.3d 160, 162 (2d Cir. 2000)). The Defendants filed the instant Motion on March 28, 2014, moving to dismiss the Plaintiff's FTCA negligence claim against the Department of Defense, pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(1). See Mot. at 1. The Defendants' Motion also seeks to dismiss the Plaintiff's civil rights claim against both the United States and the Department of Defense, pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6). See id. The Defendants did not move to dismiss the Plaintiff's FTCA negligence claim against the United States, See id., and they filed an Answer denying the substance of that claim. See generally Defs.' Answer, ECF No. 16. On April 9, 2014, the Plaintiff filed a Response to the Defendants' Motion to Dismiss the Amended Complaint, [2] and the Defendants filed a Reply on April 15, 2014.

II. STANDARD OF REVIEW

A. Subject Matter Jurisdiction Under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12 (b) (1)

The plaintiff bears the burden of proving that subject matter jurisdiction exists by a preponderance of the evidence. See, e.g., United States ex rel. Vuyyuru v. Jadhav , 555 F.3d 337, 347-48 (4th Cir. 2009) (citing Adams v. Bain , 697 F.2d 1213, 1219 (4th Cir. 1982)). When a defendant challenges the existence of the court's subject matter jurisdiction pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(1), "the district court is to regard the pleadings as mere evidence on the issue, and may consider evidence outside the pleadings without converting the proceeding to one for summary judgment." Evans v. B.F. Perkins Co. , 166 F.3d 642, 647 (4th Cir. 1999) (quoting Richmond, Fredericksburg & Potomac R.R. Co. v. United States , 945 F.2d 765, 768 (4th Cir. 1991)). The district court should grant the Rule 12(b)(1) motion to dismiss "only if the material jurisdictional facts are not in dispute and the moving party is entitled to prevail as a matter of law." Id . (quoting Richmond, Fredericksburg & Potomac R.R. Co. , 945 F.2d at 768).

B. Failure to State a Claim Upon Which Relief Can Be Granted Under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6)

Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 8(a)(2) provides, in pertinent part, "[a] pleading that states a claim for relief must contain.. a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief." The complaint need not have detailed factual allegations, but Rule 8 "requires more than labels and conclusions, and a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action will not do." Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly , 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007). "To survive a motion to dismiss, a complaint must contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.'" Ashcroft v. Iqbal , 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (quoting Twombly , 550 U.S. at 570). Facial plausibility means that a "plaintiff pleads factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged." Id . (citing Twombly , 550 U.S. at 556). It is, therefore, not enough for a plaintiff to allege facts demonstrating a "sheer possibility" or "mere[] consist[ency]" with unlawful conduct. Id . (citing Twombly , 550 U.S. at 557).

The Supreme Court, in Twombly and Iqbal, offered guidance to courts evaluating a motion to dismiss:

In keeping with these principles a court considering a motion to dismiss can choose to begin by identifying pleadings that, because they are no more than conclusions, are not entitled to the assumption of truth. While legal conclusions can provide the framework of a complaint, they must be supported by factual allegations. When there are well-pleaded factual allegations, a court should assume their veracity and then determine whether they plausibly give rise to an entitlement to relief.

Iqbal , 556 U.S. at 679. That is, the court accepts facts alleged in the complaint as true and views those facts in the light most favorable to the plaintiff. Venkatraman v. REI Sys. Inc. , 417 F.3d 418, 420 (4th Cir. 2005). Overall, "[d]etermining whether a complaint states a plausible claim for relief will.. be a context-specific task that requires the ...


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