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WINTERS v. USPS

October 6, 1989

JUANITA A. WINTERS, Plaintiff,
v.
UNITED STATES POSTAL SERVICE, et al., Defendants



The opinion of the court was delivered by: GREEN

 JOYCE HENS GREEN, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

 On September 11, 1986, plaintiff Juanita A. Winters was a passenger on a transit bus owned and operated by the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority ("WMATA") which collided with a mail truck owned by the United States Postal Service ("USPS"). She filed the instant action under the Federal Tort Claims Act, 28 U.S.C. § 1346(b), on February 14, 1989, seeking damages for injuries she allegedly sustained as a result of that collision. In her complaint, plaintiff named both WMATA and USPS as defendants. Presently pending before the Court are USPS's motion for summary judgment and plaintiff's motion to amend her complaint to substitute the United States of America as a defendant. For the reasons set forth below, both motions shall be granted.

 I. Background

 This lawsuit arises out of an accident that occurred on September 11, 1986, in which plaintiff was allegedly injured when a WMATA transit bus in which she was riding collided with a USPS mail truck. On December 23, 1987, plaintiff filed an administrative tort claim with the USPS, seeking damages for personal injury she allegedly suffered as a result of the accident. The USPS denied this claim and mailed plaintiff a letter of denial, by certified mail, on Monday, August 15, 1988. *fn1" Pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2401(b), plaintiff then had six months to file her complaint in federal district court. *fn2" Plaintiff filed the instant lawsuit in this Court on Tuesday, February 14, 1989. The complaint and summons were mailed to the Attorney General of the United States, by certified mail, on February 15, 1989 who received them on February 17, 1989. *fn3" Personal service of the complaint was made upon the United States Attorney on February 17, 1989.

 Defendant USPS has now moved for summary judgment, arguing that under 28 U.S.C. § 2679(a), the United States of America, rather than the USPS, is the only proper defendant and that plaintiff may not substitute the United States as a defendant under Fed. R. Civ. P. 15(c). Plaintiff, recognizing that the USPS is not a proper defendant, has moved to amend her complaint under Rule 15(c) to substitute the United States as a defendant.

 II. Discussion

 The Federal Tort Claims Act provides that the United States is the sole party which may be sued for personal injuries arising out of the negligence of its employees; individual agencies of the United States cannot be sued. 28 U.S.C. §§ 1346(b), 2679(a). *fn4" See Allen v. Veterans Administration, 749 F.2d 1386, 1388 (9th Cir. 1984); Hagmeyer v. United States Dept. of Treasury, 647 F. Supp. 1300, 1304-05 (D.D.C. 1986). Plaintiff does not dispute this point. Accordingly, the USPS must be dismissed from this case.

 The real issue in this case is whether plaintiff can amend her complaint to substitute the United States of America for the USPS. The problem facing plaintiff is that her amended complaint seeks to add the United States as a party after the running of the six-month statute of limitations period. Plaintiff contends that Rule 15(c) permits "relation back" of her amended complaint to the date her original complaint was filed, February 14, 1989, which would make the complaint timely as to the United States.

 Fed. R. Civ. P. 15(c) permits an amendment to relate back to the date of the original complaint if the claim arises out of the conduct, transaction, or occurrence in the original pleading and the new party has sufficient notice of the institution of the action. *fn5" There is no dispute that the amended complaint arises out of the same occurrence as the original complaint. Rather, the crucial issue is whether the United States had sufficient notice of the action.

 The general notice provision requires that:

 
within the period provided by law for commencing the action against the party to be brought in by the amendment that party (1) has received such notice of the institution of the action that the party will not be prejudiced in maintaining his defense on the merits, and (2) knew or should have known that, but for a mistake concerning ...

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