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Hill v. U.S. Department of Defense

United States District Court, D. Columbia.

September 29, 2014

MAUREEN HILL,
v.
U.S. DEPARTMENT OF DEFENSE, Defendant

For MAUREEN HILL, Plaintiff: Gary M. Gilbert, Kevin Lee Owen, LAW OFFICES OF GARY M. GILBERT AND ASSOCIATES, P.C., Silver Spring, MD.

For DEPARTMENT OF DEFENSE, Defendant: Susan K. Ullman, LEAD ATTORNEY, U.S. DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE, Washington, DC.

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

PAUL L. FRIEDMAN, United States District Judge.

This matter is before the Court on the motion of the defendant, the United States

Page 18

Department of Defense (" DOD" ), for judgment on the pleadings pursuant to Rule 12(c) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure and plaintiff Maureen Hill's motion to amend the complaint. The DOD argues that the complaint fails to properly allege " actual damages" in light of the Supreme Court's recent decision in FAA v. Cooper, 132 S.Ct. 1441, 182 L.Ed.2d 497 (2012), holding that the United States' waiver of sovereign immunity under the Privacy Act extends only to claims for pecuniary loss. In response, Hill filed a motion for leave to file an amended complaint, arguing that her proffered amendments would cure any deficiencies. Upon careful consideration of the parties' submissions and the relevant legal authorities, the Court grants plaintiff's motion to amend the complaint and grants in part and denies in part the defendant's motion for judgment on the pleadings.[1]

I. BACKGROUND

For purposes of these motions, the Court accepts as true all facts alleged in the complaint. Hill's allegations are discussed at length in Chief Judge Roberts' decision granting in part and denying in part the DOD's previous motion to dismiss or for summary judgment. Hill v. U.S. Dept. of Defense, 981 F.Supp.2d 1, 3-6 (D.D.C. 2013).[2] As relevant here, Hill was employed by the DOD as a technical information specialist until her termination on August 10, 2007. Leading up to her termination, Hill's then current supervisor shared confidential documents with a former supervisor who had since left the DOD, including memoranda and documents relating to the proposed termination and Hill's request for medical leave.

After unearthing these disclosures during discovery in a separate, unrelated lawsuit, Hill filed the instant suit under the Privacy Act, 5 U.S.C. § 552a et seq., alleging that the improper disclosures caused " adverse and harmful effects, including but not limited to mental distress, emotional trauma, embarrassment, paranoia, humiliation, lost or jeopardized present or financial opportunities and los[t] or jeopardized present or future employment opportunities." Compl. ¶ 84; see also id. ¶ ¶ 53-60. As a result of this mental and emotional trauma, Hill sought psychological help. Id. ¶ 54. She also " could not find employment because she lost her . . . supervisors as employment references." Id. ¶ 59.

On November 7, 2013, the DOD filed the present motion for judgment on the pleadings, arguing that the complaint fails to properly plead actual damages, as required by the intervening Supreme Court decision in FAA v. Cooper, 132 S.Ct. 1441, 182 L.Ed.2d 497 (2012). In response, Hill concurrently filed a motion for leave to file an amended complaint along with her opposition to the motion for judgment on the pleadings. Mot. Am. Compl. at 2. The DOD opposed both motions,

Page 19

maintaining that both the original and the amended complaints fail to properly plead actual damages.

II. LEGAL STANDARDS

A. Plaintiff's Motion to Amend the ...


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