United States District Court, M.D. Georgia, Valdosta Division
MICHAEL HENDLEY, DEMETRIUS SMITH, JR., as administrator for the estate of CRYNDOLYN HANKINS, Plaintiffs,
UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, Defendant.
LAWSON, SENIOR JUDGE
Michael Hendley and Demetrius Smith, Jr., as the
administrator for the estate of Cryndolyn Hankins, filed this
lawsuit pursuant to the Federal Torts Claims Act
(“FTCA”), 28 U.S.C. §§ 1346(b), 2401,
2671-2680, against Defendant the United States of
America to recover damages sustained from a motor
vehicle accident in Lowndes County, Georgia. Defendants now
move the Court to dismiss Plaintiffs' claims as
time-barred. For the following reasons, the Court GRANTS
Defendant's Motion to Dismiss. (Doc. 10).
FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND
allege that on or about August 23, 2016, they were traveling
along Fry Street in Lowndes County, Georgia. (Doc. 1, ¶
1). As Plaintiffs' vehicle approached the intersection of
Fry Street and East Hill Avenue, Paul Logan Garey, who was
traveling along East Hill Avenue, collided with their
vehicle. (Id. at ¶¶ 8-9). Plaintiffs
contend that the accident occurred as a result of Garey's
negligent and unlawful failure to obey a traffic signal.
(Id. at ¶ 9). Plaintiffs claim that the
accident caused them to suffer bodily injury, property loss,
and other damages. (Id. at ¶¶ 10, 12).
the accident, Plaintiffs, through counsel, filed an
administrative tort claim with the United States Air Force as
required the FTCA. By letter dated March 13, 2017, the Air
Force denied Plaintiffs' claims. (Doc. 10-1, p. 1). The
letter was properly addressed to Plaintiffs' counsel and
was mailed via certified mail, return receipt requested.
(Id. at p. 2-3). The letter advised Plaintiffs that,
“[i]f they are dissatisfied with this decision, they
may file suit in an appropriate United States District Court
no later than six months after the date of the mailing of
this letter.” (Id. at p. 1). Plaintiffs
subsequently filed suit in this Court on November 20, 2017.
MOTION TO DISMISS STANDARD
reviewing a motion to dismiss, the court shall accept
“all well-pleaded facts . . . as true, and the
reasonable inferences therefrom are construed in the light
most favorable to the plaintiff.” Bryant v. Avado
Brands, Inc., 187 F.3d 1271, 1273 n.1 (11th Cir. 1999).
The court must dismiss the complaint if, “on the basis
of a dispositive issue of law, no construction of the factual
allegations will support the cause of action.”
Marshall Cnty. Bd. of Educ. v. Marshall Cnty. Gas
Dist., 992 F.2d 1171, 1174 (11th Cir. 1993) (citing
Executive 100, Inc. v. Martin County, 992 F.2d 1536,
1539 (11th Cir. 1991) and Bell v. Hood, 327 U.S.
678, 682 (1946)). Accordingly, to avoid dismissal under
Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6), “a complaint
must contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to
‘state a claim for relief that is plausible on its
face.'” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662,
678 (2009) (quoting Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly,
550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007)).
“generally may not look beyond the pleadings” to
consider extrinsic documents when ruling on a motion to
dismiss. United States ex rel. Osheroff v. Humana,
Inc., 776 F.3d 805, 811 (11th Cir. 2015). However,
“a district court may consider an extrinsic document
even on Rule 12(b)(6) review if it is (1) central to the
plaintiff's claim and (2) its authenticity is not
challenged.” Id. Defendant here attached to
its motion to dismiss a copy of the certified letter sent to
Plaintiffs notifying them of the denial of their claim. (Doc.
10-1, p. 1). Because the timing of this notice is central to
Defendant's argument that Plaintiffs' claims should
be barred for failure to file their lawsuit timely, and
because Plaintiffs have not otherwise challenged the
authenticity of the letter, the Court concludes that it may
consider the letter.
well-settled that the “United States, as sovereign, is
immune from suit save as it consents to be sued.”
Mid-South Holding Co. v. United States, 225 F.3d
1201, 1203 (11th Cir. 2000) (quotation marks and citation
omitted). “‘The FTCA is a specific, congressional
exception' to the United States' sovereign immunity
for tort claims, under which the government may ‘be
sued by certain parties under certain circumstances for
particular tortious acts committed by employees of the
government.''' Turner ex rel. Turner v.
United States, 514 F.3d 1194, 1200 (11th Cir. 2008)
(quoting Suarez v. United States, 22 F.3d 1064, 1065
(11th Cir. 1994)). The waiver “must be scrupulously
observed, and not expanded by the courts.” Id.
(quotation marks omitted).
United States placed a condition on its waiver of sovereign
immunity for claims brought under the FTCA by enacting a
specific limitations period:
A tort claim against the United States shall be forever
barred unless it is presented in writing to the appropriate
Federal agency within two years after such claim accrues or
unless action is begun within six months after the date of
the claim by the agency to which it was presented.
28 U.S.C. § 2401(b). Section 2401(b) “is the
balance struck by Congress in the context of tort claims
against the Government; and we are not free to construe it so
as to defeat the obvious purpose, which is to encourage the
prompt presentation of claims.” Phillips v. United
States, 260 F.3d 1316, 1318 (11th Cir. 2001) (quoting
United States v. Kubrick, 444 U.S. 111, 117 (1979)).
Courts construing the FTCA's statute of limitations
therefore should not “extend the waiver beyond that
which Congress intended.” Id. (quotation marks
claims against the United States arose on August 23, 2016,
the date of the collision, and they timely presented their
claims to the proper agency shortly thereafter. However, once
the agency issued the final denial letter on March 13, 2017,
Plaintiffs failed to abide by the requirement that they file
any lawsuit within six months. Instead, ...