8. Perkins' vehicle sustained damage to the right, front headlight,
hood, and grill.
9. Following the accident, Person exited his truck and approached
Perkins' car. He asked Perkins if she was hurt. He apologized to her and
told her that the transmission in the car was malfunctioning and that he
had reported the problem, but was instructed to drive the truck anyway.
10. Mary Brown, a witness at the scene of the accident, was driving on
Martin Luther King Boulevard attempting to turn onto St. Elizabeths
grounds when she heard the collision.
11. Brown approached Perkins' car and asked her if she was "all right."
Perkins responded that she was injured.
12. The Metropolitan Police Department was called to the scene of the
accident and Perkins and Person exchanged relevant personal and vehicular
13. In the days following the accident, Perkins experienced great
amounts of back and neck pain, as well as a persistent headache. Due to
pain following the accident, Perkins missed approximately 94 hours of
14. Following the accident, Perkins went to Dr. Talatt Maximous for
treatment. Dr. Maximous recommended physical therapy and prescribed pain
medication to help Perkins manage the pain. In June 1997, Dr. Maximous
also ordered an MRI to determine if any other problems existed.
15. Perkins' pain following the accident kept her from handling routine
household tasks including cleaning the bathroom and running the vacuum
cleaner. She continues to experience pain in her back and neck and her
persistent headaches have not subsided.
16. Prior to the accident, Perkins engaged in various physical
activities including dancing, walking, and working out at a gym. Since
the accident, she has been unable to participate in these activities to
the extent she did prior to the accident.
17. The 1990 Dodge Dakota pickup truck that Person was driving was
owned by General Services Administration ("GSA"), a division of the
United States Federal Government.
18. GSA leased the truck to St. Elizabeths from 1990 to 1998 and Person
was driving the truck as a function of his duties as an employee of the
District of Columbia and St. Elizabeths.
19. According to Michelle Dee, Fleet Manager at GSA, the leasing agency
is responsible for verifying that the driver of the leased vehicle is
licensed. The leasing agency is also responsible for insuring the
20. A search of the maintenance record for the truck kept by GSA
revealed no indication that the truck was repaired following damage from
an accident. The maintenance record also lacked any reference to a
transmission problem. The truck had 39,370 miles on it when it was
returned to GSA. GSA later sold the truck at an auction in 1998.
21. Michael Young, Fleet Manager at St. Elizabeths, verified that St.
Elizabeths has an established procedure for allowing an employee to drive
an automobile leased from GSA. The employee must obtain a copy of his or
her driving record from the state where they reside and fill out an
application. Once the Motor Vehicle Operations Department at St.
Elizabeths has received this information,
they either approve or deny the
application. The approved drivers receive a government motor vehicle
operators card and are permitted to drive an assigned vehicle leased from
GSA. Every time the employee renews his or her state driver's license,
the employee must bring an updated driving record to the Motor Vehicle
Operations Department at St. Elizabeths
CONCLUSION OF LAW
Plaintiff cannot hold the United States liable for her injuries merely
because the United States leased to the District of Columbia the vehicle
that struck her vehicle.
The Federal Tort Claims Act provides, in pertinent part:
(b)(1) Subject to the provisions of chapter 171 of
this title [28 USCS §§ 2671 et seq.], the district
courts, together with the United States District Court
for the District of the Canal Zone and the District
Court of the Virgin Islands, shall have exclusive
jurisdiction of civil actions on claims against the
United States, for money damages, accruing on and
after January 1, 1945, for injury or loss of
property, or personal injury or death caused by the
negligent or wrongful act or omission of any employee
of the Government while acting within the scope of his
office or employment, under circumstances where the
United States, if a private person, would be liable to
the claimant in accordance with the law of the place
where the act or omission occurred.
28 U.S.C.A. § 1346(b) (1993).
Plaintiff is not premising liability on any "wrongful act or omission
of any employee of the Government." The only act of an agent of the
United States that could possibly serve as a predicate of liability is
the act of the GSA employees who effectuated the policy of the United
States to lease vehicles from the GSA fleet to the District of Columbia
and no one is suggesting that the act of leasing the truck was in any way
negligent or wrongful. Thus, plaintiff can prevail only by relying upon
the District of Columbia Motor Vehicle Safety Responsibility Act that
Whenever any motor vehicle, after the passage of this subchapter,
shall be operated upon the public highways of the
District of Columbia by any person other than the
owner, with the consent of the owner, express or
implied, the operator thereof shall in case of
accident, be deemed to be the agent of the owner of
such motor vehicle, and the proof of the ownership of
said motor vehicle shall be prima facie evidence that
such person operated said motor vehicle with the
consent of the owner.
D.C. Code Ann. § 40-408 (1990). A party's liability under §
40-408 turns on whether that party is an "owner" under the statute.
Plaintiff, therefore, has to argue that since the United States owned the
car and the District of Columbia used it with its consent, the driver of
the truck is deemed its agent and the United States is responsible for
the truck driver's negligence, respondeat superior, even though the truck
driver worked for the District of Columbia.