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SNODGRASS v. JONES

February 6, 1991

KERRI W. SNODGRASS AND STACEY L. BECKER, PLAINTIFFS,
v.
THOMAS F. JONES, DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Richard Mills, District Judge:

OPINION

Thomas F. Jones was the Special Agent in Charge (SAC) of the Springfield, Illinois, office of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) on October 17, 1986. Shortly after 1:00 a.m., on Interstate 55 just south of Springfield, Jones struck an automobile driven by Kerri W. Snodgrass in which Stacey L. Becker was a passenger.

Based upon the police reports, interrogatories, and statements by both Plaintiffs and Defendant, the events leading up to and following this collision are as follows.

I. Facts

On the evening of October 16, 1986, Jones left work at the FBI office in Springfield driving a Government-owned automobile. As the SAC, Jones was issued a radio-equipped vehicle for his use because he was "on-call" 24 hours a day and often would proceed directly from his home or other location to the office or crime scene in the course of his duties. After leaving the office, Jones stopped for dinner then proceeded to a Bar and Grill in downtown Springfield called "Play it Again Sam." Five hours later, at approximately 1:00 a.m., Jones left the bar and proceeded to drive south out on Interstate 55.

Slightly north of the Toronto Road exit located at mile marker 91, Jones' vehicle collided with the rear-end of the vehicle occupied by Snodgrass and Becker. Both vehicles pulled off the Interstate at an exit and stopped. The Plaintiffs copied the license number of Jones' vehicle as Defendant was getting out of his car. Jones then began walking toward Plaintiffs' car and reached inside his suit jacket. Plaintiffs, fearing that Jones was reaching for a gun, left the scene and proceeded directly to the Illinois State Police District 09 Headquarters nearby, arriving at 1:18 a.m.

At approximately 4:00 a.m. Trooper Kraft located a vehicle bearing the license number provided by Plaintiffs. The officer observed that the vehicle had front-end damage. Trooper Tarkington then located Jones who initially denied having been in an accident. However, when confronted with the damage to his car, Jones recanted and stated that he remembered hitting another vehicle on Interstate 55.

II. Procedure

Thereafter, Plaintiffs filed an action against Jones on April
28, 1987, in Sangamon County Circuit Court for injuries and
damages they sustained as a result of the collision. Jones
sought to remove the action to this Court pursuant to the
Federal Drivers Act, 28 U.S.C. § 2679(b)-(e), which was part of
the Federal Tort Claims Act, id.  § 2671 et seq.

On July 13, 1988, this Court held that Jones was not acting within the scope of his employment at the time of the accident and remanded the case to state court pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1447(c). Jones' motion for reconsideration was subsequently denied on the basis of lack of jurisdiction. See New Orleans Public Serv., Inc. v. Majoue, 802 F.2d 166, 167 (5th Cir. 1986).*fn1

Four months after we remanded this case to state court, Congress amended the Federal Tort Claims Act and vested authority for determining whether an employee was acting within the scope of his office or employment solely with the Attorney General.*fn2 Jones' request to the Attorney General for certification pursuant to § 2679(d)(2) *fn3 was denied. Upon denial of his request by the Attorney General Jones filed a petition with the state court pursuant to § 2679(d)(3) seeking certification that he was acting within the scope of his employment at the time of the accident. The Attorney General has now removed Jones' petition to this Court pursuant to § 2679(d)(3).*fn4

III. Law

Jones' first argument in his petition for certification is that this Court lacked authority to consider the question of whether he acted within the scope of his employment after the Attorney General removed this suit and certified that he was within the scope of his employment. This argument is completely meritless. The present version of § 2679 was not signed into law until November, 1988, four months after this case was remanded. The prior version of § 2679, known as the Driver's Act, explicitly required remand whenever a court found that an individual had acted outside the scope of his employment.*fn5

In our prior order remanding this case to the state court, we held that Jones was acting outside the scope of his employment at the time of the accident and could not shield "himself behind the United States Government for actions occurring in his personal life. . . ." Jones now wishes to reargue this question in the hope that he will obtain a different result. Thus, we must first ...


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