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Daniels v. United States

May 9, 2008

PATTY DANIELS, PLAINTIFF,
v.
UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, DEPARTMENT OF DEFENSE, DEPARTMENT OF THE NAVY, AND CALVIN ADAMS, INDIVIDUALLY AND IN HIS OFFICIAL CAPACITY, DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Wayne R. Andersen United States District Judge

Wayne R. Andersen District Judge

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

Plaintiff Patty Daniels ("Daniels") brings this action against defendants the United States of America, the Department of Defense, the Department of the Navy (collectively, the "federal defendants"), and federal employee Calvin Adams ("Adams"), individually and in Adams' official capacity, alleging deprivations of Daniels' constitutional rights, intentional battery, assault, and negligence by Adams. The federal defendants now move to dismiss all of Daniels' claims, except her claim that Adams, in his individual capacity, violated her constitutional rights, pursuant to Rules 12(b)(1) and 12(b)(6) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. For the following reasons, that motion is granted.

BACKGROUND

Daniels alleges that she suffered tortious injuries and violations of her constitutional rights when Navy Master-at-Arms Adams allegedly placed her in an "arm bar" and pushed her against a counter during an incident in the youth center at Great Lakes Naval Station. Specifically, Daniels alleges that on March 24, 2005, she was in the Youth Center at Great Lakes Naval Station assisting police officer John Berg when Adams grabbed her left wrist with his left hand, came across with his left forearm to her upper arm, pulled her arm backward and upward, and then pressed her up against a counter while maintaining this "arm bar." Daniels alleges that as a consequence of this incident, her left arm and shoulder were injured and that she has experienced mental pain and suffering. At the time of this incident, Adams was acting within the scope of his employment as an employee of the United States.

On March 23, 2007, Daniels filed her five-count complaint against Adams, in his individual and official capacities, as well as the federal defendants. Count I alleges that Adams violated Daniels' rights under the Fourth and Fourteenth Amendments to the United States Constitution, as well as 42 U.S.C. § 1983, by wrongfully detaining Daniels and using excessive force. Count II alleges that the federal defendants violated Daniels' rights under the Fourth and Fourteenth Amendments to the United States Constitution, as well as 42 U.S.C. § 1983, because Adams' was acting within the scope of his employment with the United States. Counts III, IV, and V allege the common law torts of intentional battery, intentional assault, and negligence, respectively, by Adams. The federal defendants now move to dismiss all of Daniels' claims except for Daniels' claim in Count I that Adams, in his individual capacity, violated Daniels' constitutional rights.

DISCUSSION

A. Legal Standard

We will analyze the federal defendants' motion under Rule 12(b)(1) as it is dispositive of Daniels' claims against those defendants. The standard of review for a Rule 12(b)(1) motion to dismiss depends on the purpose of the motion. See Freiburger v. Emery Air Charter, 795 F. Supp. 253, 256 (N.D. Ill. 1992). If the motion merely challenges the sufficiency of the allegations of subject matter jurisdiction, then the court must accept as true all well-pled factual allegations and construe them favorably to the pleader. Rueth v. United States EPA, 13 F.3d 227, 229 (7th Cir. 1993). Dismissal is proper if it appears beyond doubt that the plaintiff cannot prove any set of facts consistent with the pleadings that would entitle him to the relief requested. Conley v. Gibson, 355 U.S. 41, 45-46 (1957).

B. Daniels Cannot Maintain Suit Against Adams In Adams' Official Capacity For Violations Of Daniels' Constitutional Rights

In their motion to dismiss, the federal defendants argue that Daniels' claims in Count I against Adams in Adams' official capacity should be dismissed because claims against officers acting in official capacities are really claims against the United States and are thus barred by the doctrine of sovereign immunity. We agree. Parson v. Aguirre, 123 F.R.D. 293, 298 (N.D. Ill. 1988). Daniels argues that Bivens v. Six Unknown Named Agents of Fed. Bureau of Narcotics allows a federal agent to be sued for constitutional torts. 403 U.S. 388 (1971). However, Daniels misunderstands who may be sued and in what capacity under Bivens. It is well settled that a suit against federal officers in their official capacities is a suit against the United States. Del Raine v. Carlson, 826 F.2d 698, 703 (7th Cir. 1987). Further, inF.D.I.C. v. Meyer, the Supreme Court held that "official capacity" constitutional claims against individual federal employees are really claims against the United States and must be dismissed because the United States cannot be sued for constitutional torts absent a waiver. 510 U.S. 471, 485-86 (1994); see also United States Postal Serv. v. Flamingo Indus. (USA) Ltd., 540 U.S. 736, 743 (2004); Bradshaw v. Mazurski, No. 03 C 2074, 2004 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 454, at *10-11 (N.D. Ill. Jan. 13, 2004). Therefore, we grant the federal defendants' motion to dismiss Daniels' claims in Count I against Adams in Adams' official capacity.The federal defendants have not moved to dismiss Daniels' claims in Count I against Adams in Adams' individual capacity.

C. Daniels cannot Maintain Her Constitutional Tort Claims Against The Federal Defendants

The federal defendants next argue that Count II should be dismissed because the United States cannot be sued for constitutional torts. As explained above, the federal defendants are correct that, under the doctrine of sovereign immunity, neither the United States nor its agencies can be sued for constitutional torts absent a waiver. Meyer, 510 U.S. at 485-86. Daniels argues that she is entitled to pursue her constitutional tort claims against the United States under the Federal Tort Claims Act. However, the Federal Tort Claims Act provides only a limited waiver to sovereign immunity for some suits against the United States that does not encompass constitutional tort ...


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