United States District Court, N.D. Georgia, Atlanta Division
ALLSTATE INSURANCE COMPANY, as subrogee of CLARENCE SPEIGNER, Plaintiff,
U.S. DEPARTMENT OF VETERANS AFFAIRS, d/b/a Atlanta VA Medical Center, Defendant.
OPINION AND ORDER
WILLIAM S. DUFFEY, JR., UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
matter is before the Court on Defendant U.S. Department of
Veterans Affairs' (the “VA”) Motion to Vacate
and Set Aside Default Judgment and Set Aside Default and
Motion to Dismiss  (“Motion”).
February 19, 2015, Plaintiff Allstate Insurance Company
(“Plaintiff”), as subrogee of its insured,
Clarence Speigner, filed a form SF-95 Claim for Damage,
Injury, or Death with the Atlanta VA Medical Center in
Decatur, Georgia. The SF-95 form includes instructions for
claims presented under the Federal Tort Claims Act
December 28, 2015, Plaintiff, as subrogee of Speigner, filed
suit against the VA in the Magistrate Court of DeKalb County,
Georgia. ([1.1] at 11). Plaintiff asserts that Speigner's
vehicle was damaged in an automobile accident involving a VA
shuttle bus. Plaintiff seeks to recover damages in the amount
of $2, 914.82.
Complaint alleged that the DeKalb County Magistrate Court had
jurisdiction over the parties and subject matter of its tort
claim. (Id.). On December 30, 2015, Plaintiff filed
a Sheriff's Entry of Service, indicating that process was
served on the Atlanta VA Medical Center by leaving the
summons and complaint with an individual in charge of the
place of business. (Id. at 10). Plaintiff did not
serve the VA's Regional Counsel, General Counsel, or
Secretary, or the United States Attorney General or United
States Attorney for the Northern District of Georgia.
August 12, 2016, Plaintiff filed a motion for entry of
default judgment. (Id. at 6-9). On September 14,
2016, the DeKalb County Magistrate Court entered default
judgment against the “VA Hospital
Transportation.” (Id. at 3).
thereafter, the VA's Regional Counsel received notice of
the state court action and the default judgment, and notified
the United States Attorney's office. On October 12, 2016,
the VA removed this action to this court pursuant to 28
U.S.C. § 1442(a)(1). On October 27, 2016, the VA filed
its Motion, seeking (1) to set aside the state court's
entry of default under Federal Rule of Civil procedure 55(c),
(2) to set aside the state court's default judgment as
void for lack of subject matter jurisdiction under Federal
Rule of Civil Procedure 60(b)(4), and (3) to dismiss
Plaintiff's claims for lack of subject-matter
jurisdiction because Plaintiff was required to bring suit
against the United States, not the VA.
did not file any response to the VA's Motion, and it is
deemed unopposed. See Local Rule 7.1(B), NDGa.
Motion to Set Aside Default and Default Judgment
seeks, under Rules 55(c) and 60(b)(4) of the Federal Rules of
Civil Procedure, to set aside the DeKalb County Magistrate
Court's entry of default and default judgment. Rule 55(c)
provides that “[t]he court may set aside an entry of
default for good cause, and it may set aside a final default
judgment under Rule 60(b).” Rule 60(b)(4) provides
that, “[o]n motion and just terms, the court may
relieve a party or its legal representative from a final
judgment, order, or proceeding for the following reasons: . .
. . (d) the judgment is void.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 60(b)(4).
The VA argues that the state-court default and default
judgment are void, because the state court lacked
jurisdiction over Plaintiff's claims. “Generally, a
judgment is void under Rule 60(b)(4) ‘if the court that
rendered it lacked jurisdiction of the subject matter, or of
the parties, or if it acted in a manner inconsistent with due
process of law.'” Burke v. Smith, 252 F.3d
1260, 1263 (11th Cir. 2001).
argues the state court lacked jurisdiction over
Plaintiff's claim, because, under the FTCA, the federal
government does not waive sovereign immunity for tort claims
against federal agencies and places subject matter
jurisdiction over tort claims against the United States
exclusively in federal district courts. The Court agrees. The
FTCA creates a limited waiver of the sovereign immunity of
the United States to suits in tort. Dalrymple v. United
States, 460 F.3d 1318, 1324 (11th Cir. 2006). The FTCA
authorizes certain tort claims against the United States, not
its agencies. See 28 U.S.C. § 2679(a). The FTCA
provides the exclusive remedy against the United States for
tort claims. 28 U.S.C. § 2679; 28 U.S.C. § 1346(b).
The FTCA also provides that “the district courts . . .
shall have exclusive jurisdiction of civil actions on claims
against the United States, for money damages, . . . for
injury or loss of property, or personal injury or death
caused by the negligent or wrongful act or omission of any
employee of the Government . . . .” 28 U.S.C. §
1346(b)(1). Thus, FTCA claims cannot be brought in state
court, and cannot be brought against the VA, an agency of the
United States. The DeKalb County Magistrate Court's
default judgment is void, because it lacked subject matter
jurisdiction over Plaintiff's FTCA claims. The VA's
motion to set aside the DeKalb County Magistrate Court's
entry of default and default judgment is granted, and the
entry of default is set aside under Rule 55(c) and default
judgment is set aside as void under Rule 60(b)(4).