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Moore v. United States of America, Prospect Airport Services, Inc.

United States District Court, N.D. Georgia, Atlanta Division

June 20, 2017

CAROLYN MOORE, Plaintiff,
v.
THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, PROSPECT AIRPORT SERVICES, INC., ABC CO., and JOHN DOES 1-5, Defendants.

          OPINION AND ORDER

          WILLIAM S. DUFFEY JR. UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         This matter is before the Court on The United States of America's (“the United States”) Motion to Dismiss, or in the alternative, for Summary Judgment [15].

         I. BACKGROUND

         Plaintiff Carolyn Moore (“Plaintiff”) suffers from multiple sclerosis, which causes her to have difficulty walking. (Compl. [1] ¶ 18). On June 22, 2015, Plaintiff was being transported through Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport (the “Airport”) in a wheelchair pushed by “John Doe 2, ” later identified as Gabriel Morales (“Morales”). (Id. ¶ 19; Mot. Dismiss at Ex. A). Morales was employed by Prospect Airport Services, Inc. (“Prospect”). (Compl. ¶¶ 17, 19). Plaintiff arrived at the Transportation Security Administration (“TSA”) checkpoint while seated in the wheelchair. (Id. ¶ 20).

         When she arrived at the TSA checkpoint, Plaintiff alleges, “John Doe 1, ” an unidentified TSA employee, “instructed [Plaintiff] to exit her wheelchair in order to undergo a security screening.” (Id. ¶ 21). Plaintiff told John Doe 1 “that she was unable to do so given her medical condition.” (Id. ¶ 22). John Doe 1 then “ordered her to stand and walk through the security checkpoint.” (Id. ¶ 23).

         “Plaintiff stood, but once again informed the TSA employee that she was unable to do so given her medical condition.” (Id. ¶ 24). Plaintiff asserts that “[s]imultaneously, [Morales], the Prospect employee, removed Plaintiff's wheelchair from the immediate vicinity. After further discussion with the TSA employee and being forced to stand, Plaintiff attempted to sit down again, but her wheelchair was removed from the area and she fell to the ground.” (Id. ¶¶ 25-26).

         On December 16, 2015, Plaintiff submitted to the TSA an administrative claim based on the June 22, 2015, incident at the Airport. On June 30, 2016, the TSA “determined that no legally sustainable grounds exist on which to base a finding of liability on the part of TSA, ” and denied Plaintiff's administrative claim. (Compl. Ex. C [1.3]).

         On October 18, 2016, Plaintiff filed her Complaint, asserting claims for negligence against John Doe 1 (Count I), the United States (Count II), John Doe 2 (Count III), and Prospect (Count IV). In Counts I and II, Plaintiff alleges that “John Doe 1 carelessly, negligently and recklessly forced Plaintiff, whom [sic] suffers from multiple sclerosis, to stand from her wheelchair and attempt to walk through the TSA checkpoint at [the Airport], ” and as a result, “Plaintiff fell to the ground, ” causing Plaintiff “severe, disabling, and permanent injuries.” (Compl. ¶¶ 33-35; 42-44). Plaintiff asserts that, because John Doe 1 was an employee of the United States and the TSA, and was acting within the scope of his employment, the United States is liable to Plaintiff for past and future pain and suffering, medical expenses, and other damages in an amount not to exceed $1, 000, 000. (Id. ¶¶ 39-40, 46-48).

         In Counts III and IV, Plaintiff alleges that Morales “carelessly, negligently and recklessly removed Plaintiff's wheelchair from the TSA checkpoint at [the Airport], ” and as a result, Plaintiff “fell to the ground” and suffered “severe, disabling, and permanent injuries.” (Id. ¶¶ 50-52, 57-59). Plaintiff asserts that Prospect is vicariously liable for Plaintiff's injuries because Morales was an employee of Prospect and acted within the scope of his employment. (Id. ¶¶ 61-63).[1]

         On January 14, 2017, the United States moved to dismiss Plaintiff's Complaint. The United States argues that Count I must be dismissed, under Rule 12(b)(1) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, for lack of subject matter jurisdiction because an individual employee cannot be sued under the Federal Tort Claims Act, 28 U.S.C. § 2679(b)(1). The United States also moves, under Rule 12(b)(6), to dismiss Count II for failure to state a claim upon which relief may be granted. The United States moves, in the alternative, for summary judgment.

         On January 26, 2017, Plaintiff filed her Response [18]. In it, Plaintiff states that she “does not dispute that John Doe 1, an employee of the United States, should be dismissed from the instant action, and [Plaintiff] will consent to a dismissal of John Doe 1 only.” (Resp. at 6-7). Accordingly, the United States' Motion to Dismiss Plaintiff's claim against John Doe 1 is granted and Count I is dismissed.

         The Court next considers the United States' Motion to Dismiss Count II.

         II. DISCUSSION

         A. Le ...


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