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SHORT v. USPS

December 1, 1995

PHILIP SHORT, Plaintiff, against UNITED STATES POSTAL SERVICE and the UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, Defendants.


The opinion of the court was delivered by: BATTS

 DEBORAH A. BATTS, United States District Judge.

 Plaintiff pro se, Philip Short, commenced this action pursuant to the Federal Tort Claims Act ("FTCA"), 28 U.S.C. § 1346, seeking compensation for damage sustained to his private vehicle. The damage allegedly occurred while Plaintiff's car was parked on the premises of his employer, the United States Postal Service. Defendants moved for summary judgment and Plaintiff has responded to that motion. For the reasons stated herein, Defendants' motion for summary judgment is hereby granted.

 BACKGROUND

 Philip Short ("Short") works for the United States Postal Service as a letter carrier. (Pl.'s Aff. in Opp. of 9/14/94 [hereinafter Pl. Aff.], at 1; Mindlin Decl. P 2; Def.'s Local Rule 3(g) Statement [hereinafter Def. 3(g)] P 2.) His job requires him to use a postal vehicle during his work hours. (Pl. Aff. at 2, 5; Def. 3(g) P 2.) The Postal Service vehicle assigned to Short is kept at the Manhattan Vehicle Maintenance Facility ("VMF"). (Pl. Aff. at 1-2; Def. 3(g) P 6.) Plaintiff's position requires him to report to the VMF every workday morning and return there each evening. (Pl. Aff. at 2, 5; Def. 3(g) P 6.) The Postal Service permits employees in Plaintiff's position to park their private cars in the facility while they are working. (Pl. Aff. at 2; Def. 3(g) P 4.)

 The VMF is a four story, enclosed building owned and operated by the U.S. Postal Service. (Pl. Aff. at 1, 3.) It contains storage for a large part of the Postal Service vehicle fleet, a repair shop, gas pumps, truck washing machines, etc. (Pl. Aff. at 1-2.) The VMF has designated entrances and exits for truck and private usage and has security cameras located on all the floors. (Pl. Aff. at 3.) The security cameras connect to a main control room from which a supervisor monitors the activity throughout the building. (Id.)

 Upon completion of the VMF, station managers were requested to supply a list of employees who would be picking up Postal Vehicles at the VMF. (Pl. Aff. at 2.) Station managers were informed that any employee assigned to pick up a vehicle from the VMF must submit the make, model, year, and license plate number of the vehicle they would be driving to work and parking at the garage. (Id.) After the lists were compiled and submitted, management allowed the employees to park their car in the VMF under the following guidelines: upon reporting to work the employee was assigned a yellow identification tag that had to be displayed in the window of his car all day; the employee's vehicle was to be parked only in the spot from which the postal vehicle he would be using that day was removed; any vehicle not displaying a yellow identification tag and/or not registered on the master list would be towed from the VMF. (Id.)

 On January 11, 1993, Plaintiff parked his car on the roof of the VMF and reported to work. (Pl. Aff. at 5; Def. 3(g) P 8.) After work, while Plaintiff was driving home, his car began to overheat. (Pl. Aff. at 5.) Unable to ascertain the problem, Short continued until driving the car became difficult. Plaintiff then had the car towed to a gas station. (Id.) Upon subsequent inspection, Plaintiff's mechanic discovered that four potatoes had been shoved into the tailpipes of Short's car, causing the exhaust system to fail. (Pl. Aff. at 5; Def. 3(g) P 8.) The damage to Plaintiff's car was estimated at $ 2,976.49. (Pl. Aff. at 5; Def. 3(g) P 8.)

 Plaintiff subsequently filed a Claim for Damage, Injury, or Death with the Postal Service. (Pl. Aff. at 4-5; Def. 3(g) P 8; Mindlin Aff. Ex. A (Claim for Damage, Injury, or Death).) Plaintiff claims that his car was vandalized during the time it was parked on Defendants' property. (Pl. Aff. at 5; Def. 3(g) P 8.) On March 4, 1993, the Postal Service denied Plaintiff's claim, stating it was not obligated to pay because there was no proof the damage was caused by the negligent or wrongful act or omission of one of its employees. (Def. 3(g) P 14.) Plaintiff subsequently filed the present action in federal district court under the FTCA, claiming that the Defendants are liable for the damages to his car. (Pl. Aff. at 6.)

 II. DISCUSSION

 A. Summary Judgment Standards

 Pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c), summary judgment may be granted if "the pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories and admissions on file, together with the affidavits, if any, show that there is no genuine issue of material fact and that the moving party is entitled to a judgment as a matter of law." Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c); Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 250, 91 L. Ed. 2d 202, 106 S. Ct. 2505 (1986). A court must view the underlying facts and all reasonable inferences therefrom in the light most favorable to the party opposing summary judgment. Matsushita Electrical Industrial Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 587, 89 L. Ed. 2d 538, 106 S. Ct. 1348 (1986). "However, where the nonmoving party bears the burden of proof as to a particular issue, the moving party may satisfy his burden under Rule 56 by demonstrating an absence of evidence to support an essential element of the nonmoving party's claim." Binder v. Long Island Lighting Co., 933 F.2d 187, 191 (2d Cir. 1991) (citing Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 325, 91 L. Ed. 2d 265, 106 S. Ct. 2548 (1986)). "Where the moving party has attempted to demonstrate that the nonmoving party's evidence is insufficient as a matter of law to establish his claim, the burden shifts to the nonmoving party to come forward with persuasive evidence that his claim is not 'implausible.' The question then becomes, is there sufficient evidence to reasonably expect that a jury could return a verdict in favor of the nonmoving party." Brady v. Town of Colchester, 863 F.2d 205, 210 (2d Cir. 1988).

 B. Governing Law

 Plaintiff sues under the FTCA, 28 U.S.C. § 1346. "With respect to tort claims as to which the United States has waived its sovereign immunity, the FTCA requires the court to apply the substantive law of the place where the event occurred." Castro v. U.S., 34 F.3d 106, 110 (2d Cir. 1994); 28 ...


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