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Williams v. United States

United States District Court, S.D. Indiana, Indianapolis Division

October 1, 2018



          Hon. William T. Lawrence, Senior Judge

         This cause is before the Court on the Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment (Dkt. No. 11). The motion is fully briefed, and the Court, being duly advised, GRANTS the motion for the reasons set forth below.

         I. STANDARD

         Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56(a) provides that summary judgment is appropriate “if the movant shows that there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.” In ruling on a motion for summary judgment, the admissible evidence presented by the non-moving party must be believed, and all reasonable inferences must be drawn in the non-movant's favor. Zerante v. DeLuca, 555 F.3d 582, 584 (7th Cir. 2009) (“We view the record in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party and draw all reasonable inferences in that party's favor.”). However, a party who bears the burden of proof on a particular issue may not rest on its pleadings, but must show what evidence it has that there is a genuine issue of material fact that requires trial. Johnson v. Cambridge Indus., Inc., 325 F.3d 892, 901 (7th Cir. 2003). Finally, the non-moving party bears the burden of specifically identifying the relevant evidence of record, and “the court is not required to scour the record in search of evidence to defeat a motion for summary judgment.” Ritchie v. Glidden Co., 242 F.3d 713, 723 (7th Cir. 2001).


         On November 3, 2017, the Plaintiff filed a complaint alleging a claim pursuant to the Federal Tort Claims Act (“FTCA”), 28 U.S.C. § 2671 et. seq. The complaint alleges that on November 7, 2015, the Plaintiff was struck and injured by a door at a United States Post Office. It further alleges that the United States Postal Service was negligent in failing to maintain the door in proper working order, failing to warn customers that the door was not working properly, and failing to prevent customers from using the door. The Plaintiff alleges damages that include pain and suffering, medical expenses and lost income.


         The Plaintiff was a customer at the Lawrence branch of the United States Post Office on November 7, 2015. On that date, she informed Postal employees that she was forcibly pushed back by a door at the post office, which caused her to have a sharp pain in her arm and a tingle in her wrist. The Plaintiff provided a typed statement, dated November 10, 2015, further alleging that she experienced constant pain and discomfort, headaches, and loss of sleep as a result of the incident.

         In response, the Post Office sent the Plaintiff a letter, dated November 18, 2015, and provided her with a Standard Form 95, which is used to present claims under the FTCA. The letter also informed the Plaintiff that she had two years from the date of the accident to submit a valid claim.

         On November 7, 2015, the Plaintiff submitted the United States Postal Service Walk-In/Telephone Customer Inquiry Form. On February 24, 2016, counsel for the Plaintiff mailed a cover letter and completed Form 95 regarding the Plaintiff's injury to the United States Service Tort Claim Coordinator via first class United States mail.

         The Lawrence Post Office did not receive a completed Standard Form 95 from the Plaintiff. Furthermore, a search of all administrative tort claims submitted to the United States Post Office indicates that the United States Post Office did not receive any such claim by the Plaintiff. A separate database that tracks administrative tort claims submitted at a local level also was searched; again, no claim submitted by the Plaintiff was found.


         The Defendant argues that because the Plaintiff failed to exhaust her administrative remedies before filing an action in federal court, it is entitled to summary judgment. The Court agrees.

         A party may not bring an action seeking monetary damages against the United States unless the United States has waived its sovereign immunity. See, e.g., United States v. Testain, 424 U.S. 392, 400 (1976). The FTCA is a limited waiver of sovereign immunity, authorizing those who are injured by the negligent acts of any employee of the government acting within the scope of official duties to file suit against the United States. See 28 U.S.C. § 1346(b); LM ex rel. KM v. United States,344 F.3d 695, 698 (7th Cir. 2003). Specifically, the FTCA provides, in relevant part: “[a]n action shall not be instituted upon a claim against the United States for money damages for . . . personal injury . . . ...

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