United States District Court, E.D. Tennessee, Knoxville
W. PHILLIPS, SENIOR UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
Corey Fernando Russell filed this pro se complaint against
Defendants United States of America and United States
Marshals Service (“Marshals Service”), alleging
two violations of the Federal Tort Claims Act
(“FTCA”), 28 U.S.C. § 267, and one violation
of the Freedom of Information Act (“FOIA”), 5
U.S.C. § 552. Defendants have moved to dismiss
Plaintiff's FTCA claims under Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(1) for
lack of subject matter jurisdiction and 12(b)(6) for failure
to state a claim upon which relief may be granted, or in the
alternative, for summary judgment [Doc. 31]. Defendants have
also moved for summary judgment on Plaintiff's FOIA claim
[Id.]. For the reasons discussed below, the Court
will grant Defendants' motion to dismiss [Doc. 31] with
respect to Plaintiff's FTCA claims, and will grant
summary judgment on Plaintiff's FOIA claim.
filed his complaint on March 8, 2016 against Defendants
United States of America and the Marshals Service in the
United States District for the District of Columbia [Doc. 1].
The case was then transferred to this Court on March 2, 2017,
as this Court was the proper venue for litigating
Plaintiff's FTCA claims [Docs. 25 and 27]. Defendants
filed their motion to dismiss, or in the alternative, motion
for summary judgment, on April 25, 2017 [Doc. 31], as well as
a memorandum in support of their motion [Doc. 32]. Plaintiff
then filed a response in opposition to Defendants' motion
on May 15, 2017 [Doc. 33].
originally a federal pretrial detainee, was under custody of
the Marshals Service in 2013, and was placed at the Claiborne
County Detention Center (“CCDC”) [Doc. 1 p. 4].
Plaintiff alleges that “[o]n February 27, 2013[, he]
was assaulted by 15 to 20 Caucasian males in Dorm C-2”
at the CCDC [Id.]. As a result of this assault,
Plaintiff claims that he “suffered wonton [sic] pain of
head, head trauma, buzzing sounds, severe neck and back pain
and loss of enjoyment of life” [Id.].
Plaintiff seeks to hold Defendants liable under the FTCA, as
“the U.S. Marshals never bothered to take Plaintiff to
the hospital after receiving this information”
[Id.]. Plaintiff claims that this “failure . .
. breached that duty [of care] by failing to exercise the
requisite degree of skill and care” [Id.].
Plaintiff wrote a letter to the Marshals Service informing
them of the attack at the CCDC, his problems with CCDC
officials, that he was still suffering from his injuries, and
requested to be moved to a federal facility [Doc. 33 p.
19-20]. The Marshals Service then emailed CCDC officials,
stating that Plaintiff had complained of head trauma
[Id. at 21]. However, CCDC officials replied that
Plaintiff had failed to fill out any medical requests
relating to his head trauma [Id.].
Plaintiff was transferred to the Washington County Detention
Center (“WCDC”) by the Marshals Service [Doc. 1
p. 4]. “[O]n or about June 8, 2013, ” Plaintiff
“suffered carbon monoxide poison[ing] from a gas
leak” at the WCDC, which caused Plaintiff to
“feel dizzy and pass out” on June 8, 18, and 22,
2013 [Id. at 5]. Plaintiff claims that he was also
refused medical treatment at the WCDC, which he reported to
the Marshals Service [Id.].
FOIA claim stems from the alleged assault at the CCDC, as
Plaintiff alleges that he “filed a request for
documents . . . pertaining to the assault at the Claiborne
County Jail” on Feburary 27, 2013 [Id. at 6].
Plaintiff claims that the Marshals Service acknowledged his
request on November 17, 2014, and requested a verification of
his identity [Id.]. Plaintiff alleges that he has
not been contacted by the Marshals Service since December 30,
2014, when he received a letter stating that the Marshals
Service had “commenced a search for documents response
to [Plaintiff's] request” [Id.].
Defendants claim that “[i]n response to Plaintiff's
FOIA request, the [Marshals Service] conducted a search of
the files of the Eastern District of Tennessee because the
contract detention facilities where Plaintiff was housed . .
. are located in th[at] district” and “[r]ecords
pertaining to Plaintiff's day-to-day care while in these
facilities, including medical care, would be maintained by
the facilities [Doc. 32-1 at ¶ 4]; see [Doc. 32
p. 3]. Defendants further state that on May 6, 2016, the
Marshals Service notified Plaintiff that three pages were
located, two of which were Plaintiff's letter to the
Marshals Service, and one page was an “email . . .
between the [Marshals Service] Eastern District of Tennessee
personal and jail personnel, ” which was released to
Plaintiff with redactions [Doc. 32-1 at ¶ 6];
see [Doc. 32 p. 3].
STANDARD OF REVIEW
Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(1)
courts are courts of limited jurisdiction.”
Kokkonen v. Guardian Life Ins. Co. of Am., 511 U.S.
375, 377 (1994). In other words, federal courts “have
only the power that is authorized by Article III of the
Constitution and the statutes enacted by Congress pursuant
thereto.” Bender v. Williamsport Area Sch.
Dist., 475 U.S. 534, 541 (1986). As such, subject-matter
jurisdiction is a threshold issue that the Court must address
and resolve prior to reaching the merits of the case.
Steel Co. v. Citizens for a Better Env't, 523
U.S. 83, 94-95 (1998); see also Fed. R. Civ. P.
12(h)(3) (providing that, “[i]f the court determines at
any time that it lacks subject-matter jurisdiction, the court
must dismiss the action”). Unlike a motion to dismiss
for failure to state a claim under Rule 12(b)(6),
“where subject matter jurisdiction is challenged under
Rule 12(b)(1)[, ] . . . the plaintiff has the burden of
proving jurisdiction in order to survive the motion.”
RMI Titanium Co. v. Westinghouse Elec. Corp., 78
F.3d 1125, 1134 (6th Cir. 1996) (quoting Rogers v.
Stratton Indus., 798 F.2d 913, 915 (6th Cir. 1986)).
12(b)(1) motions fall into two categories: “facial
attacks and factual attacks.” United States v.
Ritchie, 15 F.3d 592, 598 (6th Cir. 1994). “A
facial attack is a challenge to the sufficiency of
the pleading itself.” Id. In considering
whether jurisdiction has been established on the face of the
pleading, “the court must take the material allegations
of the [pleading] as true and construed in the light most
favorable to the nonmoving party.” Id. (citing
Scheuer v. Rhodes, 416 U.S. 232, 235-37 (1974)).
“A factual attack, on the other hand, is not a
challenge to the sufficiency of the pleading's
allegations, but a challenge to the factual existence of
subject matter jurisdiction.” Id. In
considering whether jurisdiction has been proved as a matter
of fact, “a trial court has wide discretion to allow
affidavits, documents, and even a limited evidentiary hearing
to resolve disputed jurisdictional facts.” Ohio
Nat'l Life Ins. Co. v. United States, 922 F.2d 320,
325 (6th Cir. 1990). “Moreover, on the question of
subject matter jurisdiction the court is not limited to
jurisdictional allegations of the complaint but may properly
consider whatever evidence is submitted for the limited
purpose of ascertaining whether subject matter jurisdiction
exists.” Pryor Oil Co., Inc. v. United
States, 299 F.Supp.2d 804, 807-808 (E.D. Tenn. 2003)
(citing Rogers, 798 F.2d at 915-16 (other citations
Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6)
Rule of Civil Procedure 8(a)(2) governs pleadings, and sets
out a liberal standard, requiring only “‘a short
and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is
entitled to relief, ' in order to ‘give the
[opposing party] fair notice of what the . . . claim is and
the grounds upon which it rests.'” Bell Atl.
Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007) (quoting
Conley v. Gibson, 355 U.S. 41, 47 (1957)). Detailed
factual allegations are not required, but a party's
“obligation to provide the ‘grounds' of his
‘entitle[ment] to relief' requires more than labels
and conclusions.” Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555.
“[A] formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of
action will not do, ” neither will “‘naked
assertion[s]' devoid ...