UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT DISTRICT OF MASSACHUSETTS
March 28, 2011
SEIDY MARIA TIBURCIO, PLAINTIFF,
UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, DEFENDANT.
The opinion of the court was delivered by: Tauro, J.
This action stems out of Plaintiff Seidy Maria Tiburcio's claim against the Government for damages allegedly inflicted upon her by a family counselor at a federally supported health center. Presently at issue are the Government's Motion to Dismiss [#3] and Motion to Remove the Superior Court's Default Judgment [#9]. For the following reasons, both Motions are ALLOWED.
A. Factual Background*fn1 On December 11, 2008, Magda Trujillo, Plaintiff's family counselor, "abused the trust" that Plaintiff had placed in her by giving Plaintiff a "toxical liquid to drink" that hurt Plaintiff.*fn2
Plaintiff accuses Trujillo of medical malpractice, violation of patient rights, personal humiliation, false accusations, abuse of patient confidence, "of playing with [Plaintiff's] health and intelligence," lack of loyalty to professional ethics, lack of feelings toward her peers, and lack of loyalty to the United States.*fn3 Plaintiff wants Trujillo arrested and wants her to "pay for all the physical damage caused" to Plaintiff.*fn4 Plaintiff also seeks to be "compensated for damages."*fn5
B. Procedural Background
Plaintiff originally filed this case in Suffolk County Superior Court against Trujillo.*fn6 On September 24, 2010, the Superior Court issued a Default Order against Trujillo.*fn7
On September 29, 2010, the Government removed this action to this court on the ground that federal district courts have original jurisdiction over suits in which the United States or an agency of the United States is sued in its official capacity.*fn8 Also on September 29, 2010, the Government was substituted for Trujillo as Defendant.*fn9
A. The Motion to Remove the Superior Court's Default Judgment A court has jurisdiction over the United States only if there is a clear waiver of sovereign immunity and the claim falls within the terms of that waiver.*fn10 It is a plaintiff's burden to show that sovereign immunity exists.*fn11 In a case in which the government has not waived sovereign immunity, the court does not have jurisdiction, and any decision issued by that court is void.*fn12
Pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 60(b)(4), void judgments are subject to relief of judgment.*fn13 Moreover, in the case of default judgments, a court may "set aside an entry of default for good cause, and it may set aside a default judgment under Rule 60(b)."*fn14
Here, Plaintiff has not shown that there has been a valid waiver of sovereign immunity by Id. ¶ 1. By operation of the Act, FHSCAA facilities and their employees are covered entities under the Federal Tort Claims Act ("FTCA"). Id.
Trujillo is a family therapist at RoxComp and is a covered employee under the FTCA. Id.
¶ 2. The Government has also certified that Trujillo was acting within the scope of her employment during the times relevant to the complaint. Id.
Congress that would give the Suffolk County Superior Court jurisdiction over the Government. Because the state court did not have jurisdiction over this matter, the state court's Default Order is void.*fn15 This court therefore sets aside the default judgment that was entered against Trujillo on September 24, 2010.*fn16
B. The Motion to Dismiss
Under the Federal Tort Claims Act ("FTCA"), a plaintiff's exclusive remedy for a tort claim against an employee or covered entity of the United States is an action against the United States under the FTCA.*fn17 An administrative claim is an absolute prerequisite to suit under the FTCA.*fn18 Failure to follow the claim procedures vitiates the FTCA's waiver of sovereign immunity and deprives a U.S. district court of jurisdiction over a tort claim against the government.*fn19 A plaintiff bears the burden of proving that subject matter jurisdiction exists.*fn20
Here, Plaintiff's claim falls under the FTCA because Trujillo is a covered employee under the FTCA.*fn21 But Plaintiff has failed to follow the procedural requirements of the FTCA. Plaintiff was required to file an administrative claim before filing this action, which she does not allege that she did and which she did not in fact do. For that reason, this court lacks jurisdiction over Plaintiff's claims and this action must be dismissed.
For the foregoing reasons, the Government's Motion to Dismiss [#3] and Motion to Remove the Superior Court's Default Judgment [#9] are ALLOWED. AN ORDER HAS ISSUED.
Joseph L. Tauro United States District Judge