United States District Court, D. South Carolina, Charleston Division
Richard Mark Gergel United States District Judge
order addresses the Court's jurisdiction over this matter
and follows the recent submission of documents which clearly
establish that this claim is subject to the exclusive
jurisdiction of the Federal Employees Compensation Act
(FECA). Consequently, this Court, acting sua sponte,
dismisses this action brought under the Federal Tort Claims
earlier order of this Court, this action was stayed to allow
the Plaintiff the opportunity to file a claim under FECA,
which is the federal government's version of the workers
compensation act. (Dkt. No. 14). The United States had
earlier moved to dismiss this action for lack of
subject-matter jurisdiction, arguing that FECA was Plaintiffs
exclusive remedy since she had suffered her injury while on
the premises of her federal government employer. (Dkt. No.
5). The Government was operating with the understanding that
Plaintiff had not yet filed a FECA claim in this matter.
(Id. at 5 n.1). Plaintiff opposed the
Government's motion to dismiss, arguing that although she
was injured on the premises of her employer, she was not
operating within the scope of her employment. (Dkt. No. 8 at
2). Consequently, Plaintiff asserted that her injury was not
subject to FECA's exclusive remedy provision.
Court denied the Government's motion to dismiss on March
6, 2014 and stayed this action, to afford Plaintiff an
opportunity to file a claim under FECA. The Court did this
out of an abundance of caution to confirm that the Department
of Labor would accept FECA jurisdiction over this claim.
(Dkt. No. 14 at 3-4). Plaintiff was instructed to file a
status report every 90 days to inform the Court of the status
of Plaintiffs FECA claim. Plaintiffs first status report was
filed on June 3, 2014. The Court was informed that "the
Plaintiff has filed a Form CA-7, Claim for Compensation, and
the U.S. Department of Labor... has acknowledged receipt of
the claim. The Plaintiffs claim is currently under
review." (Dkt. No. 15). A report filed on February 10,
2015 indicated that the claim has been "denied" and
the Plaintiff had requested a hearing. (Dkt. No. 27). Similar
reports were filed with the Court in May and August 2015 and
in February and August 2016. Plaintiff filed a status report
on February 7, 2017 indicating that Plaintiff had not made a
timely request for an administrative hearing and for that
reason the matter had been administratively closed. (Dkt. No.
several years of similar reports from Plaintiffs counsel, the
Court entered an order on February 7, 2017, directing that
the parties file all relevant decisions, applications and
communications regarding Plaintiffs FECA claim to determine
if the Department of Labor had recognized its jurisdiction
over the claim. (Dkt. No. 35). In response to this directive,
Plaintiffs counsel filed on February 14, 2017 numerous
documents related to Plaintiffs FECA claim. (Dkt. No. 38).
These newly filed documents revealed for the first time that
Plaintiff had filed a FECA claim before she had
initiated her Federal Tort Claim and that the Government had
recognized in a decision dated June 13, 2012 that the
Plaintiffs injury had "arisen in the course of
employment." (Dkt No. 38-3). Plaintiffs FECA claim was
denied by the Department of Labor because she was unable to
demonstrate a casual relationship between the alleged
incident of March 8, 2012 and her claim injuries. Plaintiff
was advised that she could request an appeal to the
Employees' Compensation Appeals Board (ECAB) within 180
days from the denial of her claim. (Dkt. No. 38-17). The
newly filed records further revealed that Plaintiff sought
reconsideration regarding the denial of her claim on June 22,
2012, and the request for reconsideration was denied on
August 8, 2012. The basis of the denial of reconsideration
was because of Plaintiff s inability to establish a causal
relationship between the work related incident and her
claimed injuries. (Dkt. No. 38-5). Plaintiff never filed an
appeal with the EACB and the Department of Labor's denial
of the FECA claim became final.
of pursuing her FECA claim, Plaintiff administratively filed
a Federal Tort Claim on January 25, 2013. The Government
denied the claim by letter dated July 9, 2013 on the basis
that FECA provided her exclusive remedy for a work related
injury. Plaintiff thereafter filed her Federal Tort Claim
complaint in federal district court on December 19, 2013.
(Dkt. Nos. 38-6, 38-10).
the issuance of the stay by this Court, Plaintiff filed a
second FECA claim for this same injury. In her application,
filed May 13, 2014, she acknowledged to the Department of
Labor (but not this Court) that this was not her first
administrative claim in this matter. (Dkt. No. 38-13 at 2).
The Department of Labor denied this second application for
FECA benefits, noting the earlier filing of the claim, the
Government's denial, and Plaintiffs failure to file an
appeal to the EACB. (Dkt. No. 38-16).
federal district court is authorized to adjudicate only
matters within its jurisdiction. Claims under FECA must be
processed administratively by the Department of Labor and are
not subject to the jurisdiction of the federal district
court. 5 U.S.C. § 8116(c). The Secretary of Labor has
the exclusive authority to determine whether FECA applies to
a federal employee's injuries. 5 U.S.C. § 8145.
Where FECA jurisdiction is present, the district court is
mandated to dismiss the action. Somma v. United
States, 283 F.2d 149, 151 (3d Cir. 1960).
record before this Court clearly establishes that Plaintiff
filed a FECA claim with the Department of Labor prior to
asserting her Federal Tort Claim. The Secretary of Labor
accepted jurisdiction over the claim, determining that the
injury had "arisen in the course of employment."
(Dkt. No. 38-3 at 3). The Secretary denied the claim on the
merits, finding that Plaintiff had failed to establish a
causal relationship between the work related incident of
March 8, 2012 and her claimed injuries. (Id.).
Plaintiff further pursued the FECA claim through a request
for reconsideration, which was also denied on the merits of
the claim. (38-5). Since the Secretary of Labor, on the
application of Plaintiff, recognized the jurisdiction of the
claim under FECA, this Court is without jurisdiction over
this matter and must dismiss this action.
Court further finds it necessary to address the lack of
candor of Plaintiff s counsel in handling this matter. The
United States was operating under the impression that
Plaintiff had not filed a FECA claim, as indicated in its
initial motion to dismiss. (Dkt. No. 5 at 5 n.1). The
Court's decision to stay the action, rather than dismiss
it, was for the purpose of confirming that the Secretary of
Labor would accept jurisdiction of the claim under FECA.
Plaintiffs counsel elected not reveal to this Court the
existence of the prior FECA filing or the decisions of the
Department of Labor denying the claim and the request for
reconsideration. Instead, Plaintiffs counsel argued this
matter was not subject to FECA jurisdiction. (Dkt. No. 8 at
2). The status report of June 3, 2014 was also highly
misleading by indicating that a FECA claim had only recently
been filed and was "currently under review." ...