United States District Court, D. Massachusetts
MEMORANDUM AND ORDER
J. CASPER UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
Luis Rios (“Rios”) has filed this lawsuit against
the United States of America, alleging that he sustained
physical injuries due to its negligence in violation of 33
U.S.C. § 905(b). D. 1 ¶¶ 10-16. The United
States has moved to dismiss under Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(1) on
the basis that Rios did not properly exhaust the
administrative requirements under the Admiralty Extension Act
(“AEA”) prior to bringing this case in federal
court. D. 16. The Court ALLOWS the motion to
dismiss, but, as explained below, not solely on the basis of
a failure to exhaust under the AEA, and shall dismiss for
lack of subject matter jurisdiction.
Standard of Review
to Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(1), a defendant can move to dismiss an
action in federal court based upon a lack of subject matter
jurisdiction. “‘Because federal courts are courts
of limited jurisdiction, federal jurisdiction is never
presumed.'” Fabrica de Muebles J.J.
Alvarez, Incorporado v. Inversiones Mendoza,
Inc., 682 F.3d 26, 32 (1st Cir. 2012) (quoting
Viqueira v. First Bank, 140 F.3d 12, 16 (1st Cir.
1998)). Instead, “the party invoking the jurisdiction
of a federal court carries the burden of proving its
existence.” Murphy v. United States, 45 F.3d
520, 522 (1st Cir. 1995) (quoting Taber Partners, I v.
Merit Builders, Inc., 987 F.2d 57, 60 (1st Cir. 1993)).
In other words, once a defendant challenges the
jurisdictional basis for a claim in federal court pursuant to
Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(1), the plaintiff has the burden of
proving that jurisdiction exists. Johansen v. United
States, 506 F.3d 65, 68 (1st Cir. 2007).
general, the Court has “very broad discretion in
determining the manner in which it will consider the issue of
jurisdiction.” Valedon Martinez v. Hosp.
Presbiteriano de la Comunidad, Inc., 806 F.2d 1128, 1132
(1st Cir. 1986). When considering a motion to dismiss for
lack of subject matter jurisdiction under Fed.R.Civ.P.
12(b)(1), “the district court must construe the
complaint liberally, treating all well-pleaded facts as true
and indulging all reasonable inferences in favor of the
plaintiff.” Aversa v. United States, 99 F.3d
1200, 1209-10 (1st Cir. 1996) (citing Murphy, 45
F.3d at 522). The Court may also, however, look beyond the
pleadings to determine whether it has jurisdiction. Katz
v. Pershing, LLC, 806 F.Supp.2d 452, 456 (D. Mass.
2011), aff'd, 672 F.3d 64 (1st Cir. 2012);
see Martinez-Rivera v. Commonwealth of Puerto Rico,
812 F.3d 69, 74 (1st Cir. 2016); Aversa, 99 F.3d at
1210. If the Court concludes that it lacks jurisdiction over
the claims alleged, it must dismiss the action. See
Johansen, 506 F.3d at 68.
Factual and Procedural Background
otherwise indicated, the following summary is based upon the
facts alleged in the complaint, D. 1.
was a member of the crew of a vessel owned, operated or
controlled by the United States and named the USNS William
McLean (“the McLean”). D. 1 ¶¶ 1, 6. On
February 13, 2014, Rios and a fellow crew member were working
on “a CHT hose” connected to the McLean that was
not depressurized. Id. ¶¶ 6, 9. Rios was
holding onto the hose while a fellow crew member uncoupled
it. Id. ¶¶ 6-7. When the hose uncoupled,
it propelled into Rios, tossed him approximately ten feet and
caused him to sustain injuries to his back and hip.
Id. ¶ 8. His injuries required continuing
medical treatment and caused permanent disability and loss of
enjoyment. Id. ¶ 15.
August 7, 2015, Rios submitted an initial presentment letter
pursuant to 46 U.S.C. § 30901 to the United States
Department of Transportation Maritime Administration
(“the Maritime Administration”), the United
States Department of Transportation, the United States
Department of Justice and the United States Attorney for the
Southern District of Texas via certified mail. D. 16-4. There
is no dispute that the United States Attorney's Office
for the Southern District of Texas and the United States
Department of Justice received the presentment letter. D.
16-1 at 2-3. The record reflects, however, that neither the
Department of Transportation nor the Maritime Administration
received the initial presentment letter. Id. at 3;
D. 16-5 ¶¶ 2, 4.
September 1, 2015, Rios mailed a second presentment letter
pursuant to 46 U.S.C. § 30901 to the Maritime
Administration. D. 16-1 at 3; D. 16-6. The Maritime
Administration received this second letter on September 17,
2015. D. 16-5 ¶ 5. That same day, the Maritime
Administration forwarded the second letter to the Navy, the
entity that owned and operated the McLean. Id.
Rios filed this action on February 5, 2016. D. 1. The United
States moved to dismiss for lack of subject matter
jurisdiction. D. 16; see D. 16-1 at 5-11. The Court
heard the parties on the pending motion and took the matter
under advisement. D. 20.
Motion to Dismiss Pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(1)