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Bunnell v. Williams

UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT FOR THE DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA


June 21, 2007

PETER H. BUNNELL, PLAINTIFF,
v.
MAYOR ANTHONY A. WILLIAMS, ET AL. DEFENDANTS.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Henry H. Kennedy, Jr. United States District Judge

MEMORANDUM OPINION

Peter H. Bunnell, proceeding pro se, brings this action naming as defendants several federal and District of Columbia officials and alleging misconduct on the part of a United States Park Police Officer who conducted a traffic stop of him on September 10, 2004. Bunnell asserts that the Officer, Walter Duran,"stole [Bunnell's] Social Security Number at gunpoint," "abused, interogated [sic], [and] mistreated" him and caused him to "[spend] one night in custody because of [the defendants'] gross malfeasance." Compl. ¶ 1. In addition to other kinds of relief Bunnell seeks $25,000 in damages.

Before the court are defendants' motions to dismiss [#2 & #6]. The federal defendants contend that this action is time barred. The District of Columbia defendants contend that they have nothing to do with the activity which gave rise to this suit and move to dismiss Bunnell's claims on that basis. Upon consideration of the motions, Bunnell's opposition to the federal defendants' motion,*fn1 and the record of this case, the court concludes that the motions must be granted.

A. Claims Against The Federal Defendants

The federal defendants assert that this action is time barred. The court agrees.

While Bunnell does not identify the causes of action he seeks to assert or the jurisdictional basis for them, the federal defendants are reasonable in supposing that Bunnell's claims against them are governed by the Federal Tort Claims Act ("FTCA"), 28 U.S.C. § 1346(b). The FTCA authorizes district courts to hear suits against the United States arising out of the tortious acts of its employees. Id. § 2679.*fn2 When a federal employee is sued for wrongful or negligent conduct, the Attorney General may certify that the employee "was acting within the scope of his office or employment at the time of the incident out of which the claim arose." Id. § 2679(d)(1). When a certification is made, the United States is substituted as the defendant and the employee is dismissed from the action. Id. Here the Attorney General's designee Rudolph Contreras, Civil Chief in the United States Attorney's Office for the District of Columbia, certifies that both Officer Duran and Chief Pettiford*fn3 were acting within the scope of their employment at the time of the alleged incident. Defs.' Ex. 1 (Cert. of Contreras).*fn4 Accordingly, the United States is substituted as the federal defendant in this action.

The FTCA provides, in pertinent part, that "a tort claim against the United States shall be forever barred unless it is presented in writing to the appropriate federal agency within two years after such claim accrues." 28 U.S.C. § 2401(b) (emphasis added). The purpose of the requirement is "to provide authority to the heads of Federal agencies for administrative settlement of tort claims against the United States." S. Rep. No. 89-1327, at 1 (1966). More than two years have passed since September 10, 2004, and Bunnell has not presented his claim to either the United States Park Police or the Department of Labor. Decl. of Rothemich (stating that "as of March 7, 2007, neither the United States Park Police nor the Office of the Solicitor received an administrative claim . . . from Mr. Bunnell for injuries allegedly sustained on September 10, 2004"); Pl.'s Opp'n ¶ 4.*fn5 Consequently, insofar as this action asserts claims against the United States, such claims must be dismissed because they were not first presented, as required, to the appropriate federal agency.

B. Claims Against The District Of Columbia

On April 4, 2007, the court ordered Bunnell to respond to the District of Columbia's motion to dismiss by May 4, 2007, pursuant to LCvR 7(b), which provides that:

[w]ithin 11 days of the date of service or at such other time as the Court may direct, an opposing party shall serve and file a memorandum of points and authorities in opposition to the motion. If such a memorandum is not filed within the prescribed time, the Court may treat the motion as conceded.

Because Bunnell has failed to serve and file an opposition to the District of Columbia's motion to dismiss, the court treats the motion as conceded and grants it.*fn6

An appropriate order accompanies this memorandum.


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