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Sheppard v. United States

July 30, 2009

DAVID SHEPPARD PLAINTIFF,
v.
UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, ET AL., DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Colleen Kollar-kotelly United States District Judge

MEMORANDUM OPINION

Plaintiff David Sheppard brings this one-count negligence action against the United States, the District of Columbia, and Gregory Sullivan, an employee of a Task Force operated by the Metropolitan Police Department ("MPD") and Federal Bureau of Investigation ("FBI"). Sheppard alleges that Sullivan negligently struck his vehicle while Sullivan was acting within the scope of his employment and using a vehicle owned by either the District of Columbia or the FBI. Currently pending before the Court is the United States' Motion to Dismiss, or in the alternative, Motion for Summary Judgment, and the District of Columbia's Motion to Dismiss, or in the alternative, Motion for Summary Judgment.*fn1

Upon consideration of the parties' motions and related briefing, applicable case law and statutory authority, and the record of the case as a whole, the Court finds, as a matter of law, that

(1) Sullivan was not acting within the scope of his employment at the time of the accident, and

(2) Sullivan cannot rely on a D.C. permissive use statute to impose liability on Defendants. Accordingly, the Court shall GRANT the United States' Motion to Dismiss, GRANT the District of Columbia's Motion for Summary Judgment, and shall DISMISS the United States and the District of Columbia from further proceedings in this case, for the reasons that follow.

I. BACKGROUND

Sullivan is employed as an officer of the MPD/FBI Task Force, pursuant to which he is federally deputized. Compl. ¶ 17; Def. U.S.' Mot. at 2. On the evening of December 14, 2006, Sullivan allegedly struck Sheppard's vehicle in Washington, D.C., and left the scene of the accident without stopping. Id. ¶ 19. Sullivan was subsequently involved in a second collision approximately one hour later in a different section of Washington, D.C. Id. ¶ 20. He was placed under arrest by police officers after the second collision. Id. ¶ 21. The police administered two chemical breach tests on Sullivan, resulting in blood alcohol level readings of .18, and .19, respectively.

Sullivan pled guilty to driving while intoxicated in the Superior Court of the District of Columbia. See Def. D.C.'s Mot., Ex. 2 at 1 (8/7/07 Judgment Order). The MPD launched an Internal Affairs investigation, pursuant to which Sullivan provided a sworn statement. Id., Ex. 3 at 1-4 (9/10/07 Sullivan Interview). Sullivan explained that he had attended an annual Christmas party at the United States Attorney's Office on December 14, 2006. Id. at 3. According to Sullivan, he consumed four glasses of vodka and then proceeded to drive home. Id. Sullivan confirmed that he was off duty when he was driving home:

Q: Ok. One more question in reference to the gathering party at the U.S. Attorney's office, were you on or off duty at the time of the party?

A: I was off duty at the time of the accident.

Q: Were you on duty at the time of your drinking?

A: I'm really not sure . . . I don't know what the tour was in retrospect.

Q: Ok. So, you were off duty when you were ...


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