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Narvaez v. United States

January 18, 2007

ARKI NARVAEZ, PLAINTIFF,
v.
UNITED STATES OF AMERICA AND U.S. DEPARTMENT OF HOUSING AND URBAN DEVELOPMENT, DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Townes, District Judge

MEMORANDUM and ORDER

Plaintiff, Arki Narvaez ("Plaintiff" or "Narvaez"), brings this action against defendants United States and the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development ("HUD")*fn1 ,

alleging that the Government ("Defendant" or the "Government"), through its negligence in maintaining certain property, caused Plaintiff to fall and sustain severe and permanent injuries. Defendant moves to dismiss Plaintiff's complaint for lack of subject matter jurisdiction pursuant to Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(1).*fn2 For the reasons set forth below, Defendant's motion is granted.

BACKGROUND*fn3

A. Administrative History

On June 7, 2002, Plaintiff was injured when he fell "because of [sic] defective stair way."*fn4 (Compl. at ¶ 6). Plaintiff alleges that his fall was caused by the negligence of Defendant, whom Plaintiff alleges owns or manages the premises. (Compl. at ¶¶ 5, 7.) Plaintiff alleges that he sustained "severe and permanent personal injuries" as a result of Defendant's negligence. (Compl. at ¶ 8.)

On or about July 30, 2003, Plaintiff filed an administrative claim with HUD alleging injury from a "slip and fall on wet stairs." (John Cahill Declaration ("Cahill Decl.")*fn5 at ¶ 2; see also Exh. A). The claim did not identify the location of the alleged incident, including the address or the specific stairwell in question. (Cahill Decl. at ¶ 3; see also Exh. A.) Plaintiff's claim also lacked medical documentation related to his alleged injuries. (Cahill Decl. at ¶ 3.) Additionally, the claim did not allege any negligence on the part of any HUD employee. (Id.)

By letter dated September 4, 2003, HUD requested Plaintiff provide additional information, including, but not limited to, any information connecting HUD to the subject property, any supporting medical documentation, and the amount of damages claimed, so that HUD could investigate the claim. (See Exh. B.) In its letter, HUD stated that the submitted claim did "not give any indication of HUD's interest in the property where the alleged incident occurred, nor the basis for the amount of damages claimed." (Id.) Further, HUD requested Plaintiff provide a detailed description of the incident, including acts, omissions, or negligence on the part of HUD employees that were alleged to have contributed to the fall. (Id.) Plaintiff failed to respond to HUD's September 4, 2003 correspondence. (Cahill Decl. at ¶ 4.)

In the absence of any response from Plaintiff, HUD sent Plaintiff a second request for information by letter dated March 17, 2004. (Cahill Decl. at ¶ 5; see also Exh. C.) HUD advised Plaintiff that his claim would be administratively closed if he failed to submit the requested information within 30 days of the letter. (See Exh. C.) On April 21, 2004, Plaintiff provided HUD with some medical documents and a statement that HUD was negligent in its ownership and maintenance of certain property, but Plaintiff still failed to identify the property or link the property to HUD in any way. (See Exh. D.) Plaintiff's correspondence also did not identify the location of the alleged incident nor describe the circumstances under which he alleged that it occurred. (Id.)

HUD made additional inquiries to obtain information from Plaintiff. Defendants allege that a HUD representative placed two telephone calls to Plaintiff, one on November 7, 2004, and a second one on November 18, 2004, in an attempt to find out the location of the alleged incident and to obtain more information. (Cahill Decl. at ¶ 7.) Defendant alleges that Plaintiff failed to return the calls or provide the requested information. (Id.) On November 29, 2004, HUD sent Plaintiff a letter by certified mail, denying Plaintiff's claim, and advising Plaintiff that if he disagreed with their decision, he could file suit in District Court. (See Exh. E.)

Plaintiff filed a Complaint in this court on or about May 9, 2005. The Complaint lists the address of the premises where the alleged incident occurred. (Compl. at ¶ 4.) Defendant alleges that it only became aware of the address of the incident when it received the Complaint. (Cahill Decl. at ¶ 9.) However, Plaintiff contends he sent HUD a piece of paper containing the address of the incident on January 20, 2003. (See Attorney's Affirmation in Opposition to Motion to Dismiss ("Pl. Aff.") at pp. 1.) HUD alleges it never received this correspondence from Plaintiff. (Cahill Decl. at ¶ 9.)

Plaintiff alleges in his Complaint that "while lawfully inside the aforesaid building owned and managed by the Defendant" he was injured "because of defective stair way." (Compl. at ¶ 6.) The Complaint gives no further details about the incident or how it occurred. Plaintiff alleges that his fall was "caused solely and wholly by the negligence of Defendant" and requests damages for pain and suffering caused by his injuries. (Compl. at ¶¶ 7,8.) Neither Plaintiff nor his attorney make any reference to the Federal Tort Claims Act or any other law or statute in the Complaint.

B. ARCO Management Corporation

At the time of the alleged accident, HUD contracted with ARCO Management Corporation ("ARCO"), a licensed private real estate management and maintenance company, for the management and maintenance of the subject property. (Cahill Decl. at ΒΆ 10; see also Exh. G.) Under the contract in effect between HUD and ARCO at the time of Plaintiff's alleged accident, ARCO was required to maintain the building and grounds of the subject property. (See Contract between HUD and ARCO ("Contract"), ...


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