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Messerschmidt v. United States

March 10, 2005

EUGENE MESSERSCHMIDT, ET AL, PLAINTIFF,
v.
UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Emmet G. Sullivan United States District Judge

MEMORANDUM OPINION

Plaintiffs Eugene and Carolyn Messerschmidt bring this suit alleging that the United States and Defendant Bergman solicited and submitted false affidavits in a patent infringement suit plaintiffs commenced in the United States Claims Court in 1989. Pending before this Court is defendants' Motion to Dismiss, or in the Alternative, Motion for Summary Judgment ("defendants' motion") and plaintiffs' Cross-Motion for Summary Judgment and Motion to Dismiss ("plaintiffs' cross-motion"). Upon consideration of the parties' motions, the responses, replies, supplemental responses and replies thereto, and for the reasons detailed below, this Court concludes that defendants' Motion to Dismiss should be GRANTED and plaintiffs' cross-motion should be DENIED.

I. BACKGROUND

In 1989, Plaintiff Eugene Messerschmidt brought a pro se patent infringement suit in the United States Claims Court against the United States government and the government's contractors claiming that computer-aided helicopter control systems the U.S. and its contractors had developed infringed on plaintiff's patent for a one-handed helicopter pilot control device. See Messerschmidt v. United States, 29 Fed. Cl. 1 (1993). In defending against the patent infringement suit,*fn1 the United States, represented by attorney William Bergmann, among others, submitted a number of expert affidavits to support the government's defense that the patent was invalid, or in the alternative, that the patent had not been infringed. Id. at 13-14.

In a lengthy and thorough opinion, the U.S. Court of Federal Claims denied plaintiff's motion for summary judgment and granted the government's cross-motion for summary judgment, finding first that the patent was invalid and, in the alternative, that the patent had not been infringed. Id. at 66.*fn2 In concluding part of its analysis of the patent's validity, the court stated Therefore, in light of the prior art solutions to cross-coupling disclosed in the heretofore mentioned prior art references, and based upon affidavits of the defendant's experts as to the obviousness of plaintiff's invention, and in view of the lack of evidence to the contrary by the plaintiff as well as the plaintiff's own admissions of obviousness, this Court concludes that all of the claims of the invention disclosed by the '560 patent would have been obvious to those persons possessing ordinary skill in the art of helicopter system technology.

Id. at 40.

Plaintiffs appealed that ruling to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit, which affirmed the judgment of the lower court in an unpublished decision. See Messerschmidt v. United States, 14 F.3d 613 (Table), 1993 WL 481139 (Fed. Cir. Nov. 23, 1993).

On November 20, 2003, plaintiffs Eugene and Carolyn Messerschmidt filed the instant action, seeking "equitable and compensatory relief for economic harm caused by the defendants' lying under oath, conspiracy to commit fraud, and willing participation and complicity in solicitation and publication of affidavits in Messerschmidt v. US, 642-89C..." Compl. ¶1.*fn3

Plaintiffs initially brought suit against the United States, William Bergmann, and six other individuals. Shortly after filing their complaint, however, plaintiffs filed a Motion to Remove Parties Defendants, asking the Court to dismiss all the individual defendants except William Bergmann. See Pl. Motion to Remove Parties Defendants (Dec. 9, 2003). The Court granted that motion as unopposed.

In defendants' instant motion, defendants argue that the United States should be substituted for the remaining individual defendant, William Bergmann, because the Attorney General or his designee has certified that Mr. Bergmann was acting within the scope of his employment at the time of the alleged wrongful conduct, pursuant to 28 U.S.C. 2679(d)(1). Def. Memo. at 10. Plaintiffs do not object to the substitution of the United States for Mr. Bergmann. Pl. Cross-Motion at 3. Thus, the United States is the only remaining defendant in this action.

II. STANDARD OF REVIEW

Defendant moves to dismiss plaintiffs' complaint in its entirety pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(1) and Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6). In the alternative, defendant moves for summary judgment pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56.

1. Rule 12(b)(1)

"Because subject-matter jurisdiction focuses on the court's power to hear the plaintiff's claim, a Rule 12(b)(1) motion imposes on the court an affirmative obligation to ensure that it is acting within the scope of its jurisdictional authority." Uberoi v. EEOC, 180 F. Supp. 2d 42, 44 (D.D.C. 2001). Accordingly, "the plaintiff's factual allegations in the complaint... will bear closer scrutiny in resolving a 12(b)(1) motion than in resolving a 12(b)(6) motion for failure to state a claim." Id. The D.C. Circuit instructs that when a motion to dismiss "present[s] a dispute over the factual basis of the court's subject matter jurisdiction," the Court: may not deny the motion to dismiss merely by assuming the truth of the facts alleged by the plaintiff ...


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