United States District Court, District of Columbia
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
RANDOLPH D. MOSS, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
Tyrell Woodruff, proceeding pro se, brings this
negligence action against the United States pursuant to the
Federal Tort Claims Act (“FTCA”), 28 U.S.C.
§ 1346(b)(1). Woodruff alleges that while he was
incarcerated, another inmate assaulted him in the recreation
yard with a knife. Seeking to recover damages for his
injuries, he argues that the prison lacked adequate security
measures to prevent such attacks and that the correctional
officers failed to intervene once the incident was underway.
The United States has moved to dismiss for lack of
jurisdiction on the grounds that the challenged acts or
omissions fall within the discretionary function exception to
the FTCA's waiver of sovereign immunity. For the reasons
that follow, the Court will DENY the motion
as premature and will allow Woodruff to conduct limited
complaint, Dkt. 1, sets forth the relevant facts. Tyrell
Woodruff is a former inmate at the Gilmer Federal
Correctional Institution (“FCI Gilmer”), a Bureau
of Prisons facility located in Glenville, West Virginia. Dkt.
1 at 1 (Compl. ¶ 2). On January 13, 2015, another inmate
attacked Woodruff for no apparent reason in the inmate
recreation yard. Id. at 2 (Compl. ¶ 4). The
assailant repeatedly stabbed Woodruff using “a
home-made knife.” Id. (Compl. ¶ 4).
Woodruff “yelled for the correctional staff to
intervene, ” but officers did not enter the area for
another twenty minutes, when they were scheduled to close the
yard. Id. (Compl. ¶ 4). Woodruff sustained at
least five “puncture wounds and abrasions to his
head” and “lost a considerable amount of
blood.” Id. (Compl. ¶ 5). He was placed
in the segregation unit following the attack. Id.
(Compl. ¶ 7). Woodruff submitted a personal injury claim
to the Bureau of Prisons in September 2015 but did not
receive a response. Id. (Compl. ¶ 13); see
Id. at 5-7.
asserts a single claim for negligence against the United
States. He alleges, first, that the correctional
officers “did not make any attempt to intervene and
stop the attack, even though staff members were within
earshot of [his] calls for assistance.” Id. at
3 (Compl. ¶ 10). Second, he alleges that
“[s]ecurity was insufficient and well below the
standard of care owed to [him], ” which allowed
“inmates . . . to enter the recreation yard at will
armed with weapons.” Id. (Compl. ¶ 11).
These failures, Woodruff asserts, proximately caused his
injuries, and he therefore seeks to recover $500, 000 in
damages for pain and suffering. Id. at 2-3 (Compl.
¶¶ 9, 14).
United States has moved to dismiss for lack of subject matter
jurisdiction. Dkt. 13. According to the government, the
alleged negligent omissions that Woodruff has identified fall
within the discretionary function exception to the FTCA's
waiver of sovereign immunity. Id. at 12-16. Woodruff
opposes the motion and seeks limited jurisdictional
discovery. Dkt. 15.
resolve a motion to dismiss for lack of jurisdiction brought
under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(1), the Court may
consider the complaint standing alone or in tandem with any
“undisputed facts evidenced in the record, ” and
may also resolve any factual disputes necessary to determine
its jurisdiction. Herbert v. Nat'l Acad. of
Scis., 974 F.2d 192, 197 (D.C. Cir. 1992). The burden of
establishing jurisdiction rests on the plaintiff.
Kokkonen v. Guardian Life Ins. Co. of Am., 511 U.S.
375, 377 (1994).
immunity is “jurisdictional in nature” and,
“[a]bsent a waiver, . . . shields the Federal
Government and its agencies from suit.” FDIC v.
Meyer, 510 U.S. 471, 475 (1994); see also United
States v. Mitchell, 463 U.S. 206, 212 (1983) (“It
is axiomatic that the United States may not be sued without
its consent and that the existence of consent is a
prerequisite for jurisdiction.”). “[T]he terms of
[the United States's] consent to be sued . . . define [a]
court's jurisdiction to entertain the suit.”
United States v. Sherwood, 312 U.S. 584, 586 (1941).
FTCA waives the immunity of the United States for damages
claims “arising from certain torts committed by federal
employees in the scope of their employment.” Sloan
v. U.S. Dep't of Hous. & Urban Dev., 236 F.3d
756, 759 (D.C. Cir. 2001); see 28 U.S.C. §
1346(b)(1). This waiver, however, is subject to several
exceptions. See 28 U.S.C. § 2680. The exception
at issue here-the discretionary function exception-applies to
“[a]ny claim based upon . . . the exercise or
performance or the failure to exercise or perform a
discretionary function or duty . . ., whether or not the
discretion involved be abused.” 28 U.S.C. §
Supreme Court has set forth a two-part test for determining
whether the discretionary function exception applies. See
United States v. Gaubert, 499 U.S. 315, 322-23 (1991).
First, the Court must decide whether a “federal
statute, regulation, or policy specifically prescribes a
course of action for an employee to follow.”
Berkovitz v. United States, 486 U.S. 531, 536
(1988). If so, the discretionary function exception will not
shield the United States from suit because “the
employee has no rightful option but to adhere to the
directive.” Id. If, however, “the
challenged conduct involves an element of judgment, ”
the Court must then determine “whether that judgment is
of the kind that the discretionary function exception was
designed to shield.” Id. The exception
“protects only governmental actions and decisions based
on considerations of public policy.” Id. at
537. Because “[d]iscretionary function determinations
are jurisdictional in nature, ” Cope v. Scott,
45 F.3d 445, 448 (D.C. Cir. 1995), the Court must dismiss any
claims that fall within the scope of the exception.
central dispute between the parties concerns the first part
of the inquiry and, specifically, whether Bureau of Prisons
or FCI Gilmer regulations or policies impose mandatory duties
on correctional officers to prevent or stop physical attacks,
like the one alleged here. In prisoner safety cases,
“courts have examined . . . program statements,
institutional supplements, manuals, and post orders to
determine whether [the] government agents” were subject
to mandatory duties. Sledge v. United States, 723
F.Supp.2d 87, 93 (D.D.C. 2010).
United States argues that there are “no specific
statutes, regulations, or procedures that require FCI Gilmer
employees to follow a specific course of action when
protecting and supervising inmates.” Dkt. 13 at 13. In
support of this assertion, the government points to the
declaration of Thomas Heath, a Recreation Specialist at FCI
Gilmer. Dkt. 13-2 (Heath Decl.). According to Heath,
“[t]here are no general or specific post orders for
Recreation staff.” Dkt. 13-2 at 2 (Heath Decl. ¶
5). Heath also avers that “[i]n [his] training and
experience, [he is] not aware of any mandatory directives
regarding staff action in response to an ongoing
altercation.” Id. (Heath Decl. ¶ 5).
Turning to the second step, the United States contends that
decisions on how to respond to inmate altercations and how to
prevent inmates from bringing weapons into the recreation
yard are ...