The court concludes that the defendants' motion to dismiss shall be granted because this court lacks subject-matter jurisdiction to hear this controversy as the plaintiff has not met the "presentment" requirements contained in the Federal Tort Claims Act (FTCA) 28 U.S.C. Sections 2401(b) and 2675 et seq.
Plaintiff, Tonyia Stokes, filed the above-captioned action on May 12, 1995 alleging that the United States Postal Service (USPS) negligently handled the processing of an Internal Revenue Service (IRS) tax levy against her wages. In March 1993, USPS received a request from the IRS for a tax levy of $ 2,672.71 on the plaintiff's wages. In response to the IRS's request, the USPS garnished $ 735.71 from plaintiff's paycheck for the pay-period (p/p) 5 of 1993 and $ 792.04 in p/p 6 of 1993. Subsequently, plaintiff entered into a Payroll Deduction Agreement with the IRS whereby $ 100.00 would be garnished from each of her paychecks until she satisfied all her outstanding tax obligations. This arrangement began with p/p 8 of 1993 and continued through p/p 15 of 1993.
In p/p 16 of 1993, the USPS withheld $ 731.09 from plaintiff's paycheck because of another IRS request for a tax levy, amounting to $ 1,977.12. In p/p 17 of 1993, the USPS garnished $ 701.77 for the same reason.
Plaintiff subsequently learned from the IRS that her previous Payroll Deduction Agreement had been unilaterally cancelled by the IRS because of the USPS' failure to complete the necessary paperwork. In response to these two large payroll deductions and the cancellation of her original Payroll Deduction Agreement, plaintiff entered into another Payroll Deduction Agreement with the IRS. A $ 100.00 deduction from her paycheck began with p/p 19 of 1993 and continued through p/p 21 of 1993.
In November 1993, the USPS received another request for a tax levy from the IRS to be deducted from plaintiff's wages. The amount of this levy was $ 1,124.21. The USPS received a fourth IRS request for a levy in February 1994 for the amount of $ 1,150.10. In response to this latest tax levy, the USPS withheld plaintiff's entire net pay for p/p 6 of 1994. The amount withheld from plaintiff's p/p 6 paycheck was $ 889.30, which represented her entire net pay. The USPS admitted that this action was the result of a computer error on its part. All levies have since been released by the IRS as plaintiff has satisfied all her outstanding tax obligations.
After the entire net pay was withheld from her p/p 6 paycheck, plaintiff sought and obtained a meeting with Linda Venable, Manager of Finance, at the General Mail Facility located in Washington, D.C. At this meeting, plaintiff requested a salary advance. Ms. Venable denied this request on behalf of the USPS. On April 2, 1994, plaintiff mailed Ms. Venable a letter again requesting a salary advance. Subsequently, plaintiff met with the Postmaster of Washington, D.C., Mr. David Clark, Ms. Venable and Mr. Herb Hollar, Supervisor of Finance at the USPS. Again, her request for a salary advance, to replace the amount taken from her paycheck due to the USPS's accounting error, was denied.
Plaintiff then sent copies of her April 2, 1994 written request for a payroll advance to various officials in the USPS. Sometime during this period, the USPS reversed its position, granted plaintiff a salary advance and forwarded two checks to her totalling $ 869.05.
Plaintiff alleges that as a result of the Defendants' actions she has suffered great mental stress, loss of personal property and eviction from her place of residence. Plaintiff seeks $ 6,000.00 in compensatory damages and $ 444,000.00 in punitive damages.
Defendants' have moved for dismissal under Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(1). Pursuant to Fed. R.Civ.P. 12(b)(1), the court may grant a motion to dismiss if the court lacks subject-matter jurisdiction over the controversy. The court, on a motion to dismiss, shall accept the allegations in plaintiff's complaint as true. See Jenkins v. McKeithen, 395 U.S. 411, 23 L. Ed. 2d 404, 89 S. Ct. 1843 (1969).
Defendants' argue that plaintiff has failed to present her claim to the USPS, as required by the Federal Tort Claims Act (FTCA). Defendants posit that plaintiff's failure to follow the presentment requirements embodied in the FTCA prevents this court from having subject matter jurisdiction over the present controversy. Conversely, plaintiff argues that the April 2, 1994 letter suffices to satisfy the presentment requirements of the FTCA. Alternatively, plaintiff argues that her filing of an amended claim on August 17, 1995 cured any defect that her April 2, 1994 letter contained.
A. The Presentment Requirements Of 28 U.S.C. Section 2675(a) and 2401(b)
The federal government and its agencies are "absolutely shielded from tort actions for damages unless sovereign immunity has been waived." Kline, 603 F. Supp. at 1316 (citing United States v. Testan, 424 U.S. 392, 399, 47 L. Ed. 2d 114, 96 S. Ct. 948 (1976). The FTCA, however, waives sovereign immunity in a limited number of tort actions. See 28 U.S.C. Section 2680(h). Sections 2675(a) and 2401(b) require plaintiff to file her claim with the appropriate federal agency before initiating a suit in federal court. Such a claim is a mandatory jurisdictional prerequisite to filing a lawsuit against the United States. Jackson v. United States, 235 U.S. App. D.C. 46, 730 F.2d 808, 809 (D.C. Cir. 1984).
Therefore, if a plaintiff does not meet these requirements, a court lacks jurisdiction to entertain a tort claim against the United States. Id.4 Section 2675(a) reads, in pertinent part,
An action shall not be instituted upon a claim against the United States . . . unless the claimant shall have first presented the claim to the appropriate Federal agency . . .