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Johnson v. Veterans Affairs Medical Center

United States District Court, D. Columbia

September 28, 2015

CHARLES JOHNSON, JR., Plaintiff,
v.
VETERANS AFFAIRS MEDICAL CENTER, et al., Defendants

Page 11

          For CHARLES JOHNSON, JR., Plaintiff: Gladys M. Weatherspoon, LEAD ATTORNEY, THE LAW OFFICE OF GLADYS WEATHERSPOON, LLC, Greenbelt, MD.

         For VETERANS AFFAIRS MEDICAL CENTER, Defendant: Peter Rolf Maier, U.S. ATTORNEY'S OFFICE, Civil Division, Washington, DC.

Page 12

          Re Document No.: 10

         MEMORANDUM OPINION

         RUDOLPH CONTRERAS, United States District Judge.

         Granting Defendant Veterans Affairs Medical Center's Second Motion to Dismiss

         I. INTRODUCTION

         Plaintiff Charles Johnson, Jr., has brought this action seeking damages from Defendant Veterans Affairs Medical Center and four unknown individual defendants (" Does 1-4" ) for claims arising from Mr. Johnson's inpatient treatment at the Medical Center. Mr. Johnson initially brought common law tort claims against the defendants in the Superior Court of the District of Columbia. But the Medical Center removed to this Court and has now moved to dismiss Mr. Johnson's claims against the Medical Center on sovereign immunity grounds. Because the Medical Center correctly argues that Mr. Johnson did not name the United States as a defendant and that he has therefore failed to sue the only proper defendant in this action, the Court will grant the Medical Center's motion and dismiss Mr. Johnson's claims against the Medical Center.

         II. FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

         According to the Complaint, Plaintiff Charles Johnson, Jr., was receiving inpatient care from Defendant Veterans Affairs Medical Center on November 13, 2011, when four Medical Center employees, the Defendants Does 1-4, searched his belongings and his person. Compl. ¶ ¶ 3, 9, 11-13, ECF No. 1-1. At the time, Mr. Johnson was receiving treatment for depression and neurovegetative symptoms, and he had not used illicit substances for eighteen years. Compl. ¶ ¶ 9-10. Suspecting that Mr. Johnson's visiting family members had brought him narcotics, the four Medical Center employees searched Mr. Johnson's bed, his personal effects, and his person. Compl. ¶ ¶ 11-13, 21; Opp'n Mot. Dismiss Exs. A-B, ECF No. 6-2. The employees conducting the search included one female nurse--a member of the opposite sex as compared to Mr. Johnson, who is male. Compl. ¶ ¶ 3, 13, 20. During the search of Mr. Johnson's person, the Medical Center employees made him hold up his arms, lift his scrotum, and bend down and part his buttock cheeks so that the employees could thoroughly search his body. Compl. ¶ ¶ 13, 21.

         After the search, Mr. Johnson made several informal complaints to the Medical Center and also sent the Medical Center a letter through counsel, complaining about his treatment. Mem. P. & A. Supp. Pl.'s Opp. Mot. Dismiss ¶ ¶ 1-15, ECF No. 6-1. Unsatisfied with the Medical Center's perfunctory responses, Mr. Johnson filed suit against the Medical Center and its four unnamed employees (" Does 1-4" ) in the District of Columbia Superior Court on June 2, 2014. See Compl. Seeking damages, he charged the Medical Center with six common law tort violations arising from the search of his belongings and his

Page 13

person: assault, battery, intentional infliction of emotional distress, invasion of privacy, false imprisonment, and negligence. Compl. ¶ ¶ 16-39.

         The Medical Center removed to this Court and filed an initial motion to dismiss Mr. Johnson's claims for failure to exhaust administrative remedies. See Notice of Removal, ECF No. 2; Mot. Dismiss, ECF No. 5. However, the Medical Center withdrew its first motion to dismiss, and now it has filed a second motion to dismiss--this time arguing that the Court lacks jurisdiction over Mr. Johnson's claims because sovereign immunity bars them. See Def.'s Second Mot. Dismiss, ECF No. 10; Mem. P. & A. Supp. Def.'s Second Mot. Dismiss, ECF No. 10-1.

         The Medical Center argues that sovereign immunity bars Mr. Johnson's claims for three reasons:

(1) despite the Federal Tort Claims Act (FTCA)'s waiver of the federal government's sovereign immunity, federal agencies such as the Medical Center ...

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