shall have been finally denied by the agency in writing.
28 U.S.C. § 2675(a). Thus, a claimant must seek administrative review prior to filing an action in federal court under the FTCA.
The impetus behind the exhaustion requirement is to "avoid unnecessary litigation by enabling the Government to promptly evaluate and investigate claims for early settlement at the administrative level." Hartford Accident & Indemnity v. United States, 720 F. Supp. 258, 260 (E.D.N.Y. 1989) (citing Keene Corp. v. United States, 700 F.2d 836, 842 (2d Cir.), cert. denied, 464 U.S. 864, 78 L. Ed. 2d 171, 104 S. Ct. 195 (1983)). For this reason, and because the FTCA is a waiver of sovereign immunity, the notice of claim that must be filed to begin the administrative review process must be strictly construed. See Keene Corp., 700 F.2d at 841 (citations omitted); Hartford Accident, 720 F. Supp. at 260 (citations omitted).
In order to satisfy the notice requirement, a claim which is presented to the relevant government agency, in this case HUD, must provide the agency with "sufficient information both to permit an investigation and to estimate the claim's worth." Keene Corp., 700 F.2d at 842. The requirement that the agency have notification of the damages sought is embodied in 28 C.F.R. § 14.2(a), which states that "a claim shall be deemed to have been presented when a Federal agency receives from a claimant . . . [written notification of an incident], accompanied by a claim for money damages in a sum certain . . . [for injury] alleged to have occurred by reason of the incident."
In support of their position that they properly notified HUD of their claims and thus exhausted their administrative remedies, plaintiffs cite to a series of interactions and communications involving HUD and Babylon. Specifically, plaintiffs submit that they presented their claims at a January 14, 1991 exit conference with HUD; that they submitted a forty-seven page letter outlining errors in the HUD report; that they requested that HUD not release a final version of the report until they could respond; and that HUD notified them on March 29, 1991 of the "resolution of this administrative matter."
Viewing plaintiffs' representations regarding these communications in a light most favorable to them, the Court nonetheless finds that they did not provide HUD with a sufficient basis for investigating the nature and extent of the claims presently before this Court. Not only do these communications fail to reflect plaintiffs' claims of emotional distress or negligence, but none of them contains a claim to HUD for a sum certain. This latter ground alone is enough to establish that notice to the agency was insufficient. See Adams v. United States Dep't of Housing & Urban Dev., 807 F.2d 318, 321 (2d Cir. 1984). The Court thus finds that plaintiffs have failed to exhaust administrative remedies and that the Court lacks subject matter jurisdiction over this action.
Plaintiffs have asked that, at a minimum, the Court stay this proceeding until plaintiffs take the necessary steps to exhaust their administrative remedies. Because the exhaustion requirement is a jurisdictional requisite to the filing of an action under the FTCA, the Court has no authority to stay this proceeding and denies plaintiffs' request.
For the foregoing reasons, the above action is dismissed for lack of subject matter jurisdiction.
Dated: Brooklyn, New York
April 7, 1992
DENIS R. HURLEY, U.S.D.J.