United States District Court, District of Columbia
G. Sullivan United States District Judge.
Maciste Coleman and defendant Ann Marie Clark collided when
Professor Clark made an illegal right turn while driving in
the District of Columbia. Mr. Coleman claims that he was
injured in the accident and filed this lawsuit alleging that
Professor Clark was negligent and that her employer, Purdue
University, should be held vicariously liable. Pending before
the Court is defendants' motion to dismiss Mr.
Coleman's complaint on the ground that the claims are
barred by Indiana's sovereign immunity. Upon
consideration of defendants' motion, the response and
reply thereto, and the applicable law, the Court
GRANTS defendants' motion and dismisses
August 28, 2014, Mr. Coleman was operating his motorcycle in
the right lane going southbound on 23rd Street N.W. toward
Constitutive Avenue in the District of Columbia. Compl.
¶ 5, ECF No. 1-1 at 8. Mr. Coleman alleges that
defendant Ann Marie Clark, a professor at Purdue University,
made an illegal right turn that caused her to collide with
Mr. Coleman. Id. ¶¶ 6-7, ECF No. 1-1 at 8.
Officers from the National Park Service arrived at the scene
and spoke with the parties. See Defs.' Mot. to
Dismiss Ex. 1, ECF No. 9-1. The Motor Vehicle Traffic
Accident Report filed by the National Park Service indicates
that Professor Clark was issued a citation for the accident.
Id., ECF No. 9-1 at 3. The report further specifies
that, while there was damage to the right side of Mr.
Coleman's motorcycle, “[n]o injuries were
than two weeks after the accident, Mr. Coleman's attorney
sent a letter to JFW Specialty Co., the third-party claims
adjuster handling claims against Purdue. See
Defs.' Mot. to Dismiss Ex. 2, ECF No. 9-2. The subject
line of the attorney's letter stated that the
“Insured” in the matter was “Purdue
University.” Id. The letter further indicated
that Mr. Coleman had suffered “injuries” but did
not specify the nature or severity of the injuries.
Id. Mr. Coleman's attorney sent three additional
letters to JFW between July 2015 and April 2017. See
Defs.' Mot. to Dismiss, Exs. 3-5, ECF No. 9-3, 9-4, and
9-5. These letters were addressed only to JFW and did not
copy anyone at Purdue or the State of Indiana. See
30, 2017, Mr. Coleman filed suit in the Superior Court of the
District of Columbia against Professor Clark for operating
her vehicle “in a negligent, careless and reckless
manner.” Compl. ¶ 8, ECF No. 1-1 at 8. Mr.
Coleman's complaint also included a respondeat-superior
claim against Purdue. Id. ¶¶ 5-18, ECF No.
1-1 at 8-10. Mr. Coleman asserts that, as a result of the
accident, he “was violently knocked and thrown about,
sustaining severe, painful and permanent injuries to his body
as well as severe and protracted shock to his nervous
system.” Id. ¶ 10. Mr. Coleman seeks
compensatory damages in the amount of $850, 000 for the
injuries he sustained as a result of defendants'
purported negligence. Id. ¶¶ 14, 18.
removed this case on July 28, 2017 based on diversity
jurisdiction. See Defs.' Notice of Removal, ECF
No. 1. Defendants subsequently filed a motion to dismiss
pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(1), arguing
that Mr. Coleman's suit is barred by Indiana's
sovereign immunity. See Defs.' Mot. to Dismiss,
ECF No. 9. Defendants' motion is ripe for the Court's
federal district court may only hear a claim over which it
has subject-matter jurisdiction; therefore, a Rule 12(b)(1)
motion for dismissal is a threshold challenge to a
court's jurisdiction.” Gregorio v. Hoover,
238 F.Supp. 3D 37, 44 (D.D.C. 2017) (internal citation and
quotation omitted). To survive a Rule 12(b)(1) motion, the
plaintiff bears the burden of establishing that the court has
jurisdiction by a preponderance of the evidence. Lujan v.
Defenders of Wildlife, 504 U.S. 555, 561 (1992).
“Because Rule 12(b)(1) concerns a court's ability
to hear a particular claim, the court must scrutinize the
plaintiff's allegations more closely . . . than it would
under a motion to dismiss pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6).”
Schmidt v. U.S. Capitol Police Bd., 826 F.Supp.2d
59, 65 (D.D.C. 2011) (internal citations omitted). In so
doing, the court must accept as true all of the factual
allegations in the complaint and draw all reasonable
inferences in favor of the plaintiff, but the court need not
“accept inferences unsupported by the facts alleged or
legal conclusions that are cast as factual
allegations.” Rann v. Chao, 154 F.Supp.2d 61,
64 (D.D.C. 2001). In reviewing a motion to dismiss pursuant
to Rule 12(b)(1), the court “may consider materials
outside the pleadings” in determining whether it has
jurisdiction to hear the case. Jerome Stevens Pharm.,
Inc. v. Food and Drug Admin., 402 F.3d 1249, 1253 (D.C.
argue that Mr. Coleman's claims against a state
university and a state employee are barred by Indiana's
sovereign immunity. Although Indiana waives it sovereign
immunity in certain circumstances - including when its agent
negligently causes a motor-vehicle collision, see State
v. Turner, 153 Ind.App. 197, 199 (1972) - an individual
bringing suit against the state must satisfy certain
statutory prerequisites prior to filing an action. Defendants
assert that Mr. Coleman failed to meet the statutory
requirements here by, among other things, not providing
prompt notice of his claims as required by the Indiana Tort
Claims Act. Defendants urge the Court to apply the Indiana
Tort Claims Act based on the principle of comity.
a federal court exercises diversity . . . jurisdiction over
state-law claims, ‘the outcome of the litigation in the
federal court should be substantially the same, so far as
legal rules determine the outcome of a litigation, as it
would be if tried in a State court.'” Felder v.
Casey, 487 U.S. 131, 151 (1988) (quoting Guaranty
Trust Co. v. York, 326 U.S. 99, 109 (1945). In this
diversity action, then, the Court must first determine
whether District of Columbia courts would apply Indiana's
notice-of-claim provision on the basis of
comity. As explained more fully below, the Court
finds that District of Columbia would apply Indiana's
notice provision, that Mr. Coleman failed to provide
sufficient notice as required by that law, and that Mr.
Coleman's claims against Professor Clark cannot stand.
Comity Requires the Application of Indiana Law
principles ensure that foreign law that does not conflict
with the law of the forum state may be applied to foster
cooperation between sister jurisdictions.” Solomon
v. Supreme Court of Fla., 816 A.2d 788, 790 (D.C. 2002).
The District of Columbia Court of Appeals has explained that
the presumption “‘that the States intended to
adopt policies of broad comity toward one another'”
applies “equally to the District of Columbia.”
Id. (quoting Hall, 440 U.S. at 425). In
Solomon, the Court of Appeals upheld “the
absolute immunity of the Florida Bar and its agents for
conduct related to their performance of disciplinary
functions, conducted in the District of Columbia, where
equivalent District bar disciplinarily agents would be
entitled to such immunity in [D.C.] courts.”
Id. at 789-90. In so doing, the Court of Appeals
explained that “the District of Columbia courts
should, on principles of ...