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Lopez v. United States

United States District Court, D. Arizona

June 19, 2019

Oscar Lopez, et al., Plaintiffs,
United States of America, Defendant.


          Honorable John J. Tuchi United States District Judge.

         Plaintiffs Oscar and Diocelina Lopez and their minor child J.L. brought this case against the United States under the Federal Tort Claims Act (“FTCA”), 28 U.S.C. § 1346(b)(1), for the allegedly negligent execution of a search and seizure warrant. The Government has filed a Motion to Dismiss for Lack of Subject Matter Jurisdiction and Motion for Summary Judgment (“Mot.”) (Doc. 76), to which Plaintiffs have filed a Response (“Resp.”) (Doc. 86) and the Government has filed a Reply (Doc. 91).[1] For the reasons that follow, the Court will grant the Government's Motion to Dismiss, deny as moot its Motion for Summary Judgment, and dismiss Plaintiffs' claim for lack of subject matter jurisdiction. . . . . . . . . . . . .

         I. BACKGROUND

         This case stems from federal agents' execution of a warrant on Plaintiffs' property.[2]On March 3, 2011, a United States Magistrate Judge issued a search and seizure warrant for Lopez Auto Body and Towing in Glendale, Arizona. (SOF ¶¶ 3-4.) The body shop was located on a parcel that also contained a residence, office, and yard. (SOF ¶¶ 5-6.) Acting alongside state and local law enforcement, federal agents executed the warrant the following day. (SOF ¶¶ 8, 19.) Agents breached several doors and windows of the shop, residence, and office, as well as the windows of seven vehicles that belonged to Plaintiffs' customers. (SOF ¶¶ 12-16.) Plaintiffs testified that agents damaged additional property, including a dresser, box spring, kitchen cupboards, a television, closet door, air conditioning vents, and a bedroom wall. (SOF ¶¶ 23-31.) Plaintiffs have also alleged that agents seized a laptop computer and five cell phones. (Doc. 1, Compl. ¶ 20.)

         Plaintiffs later filed an administrative claim with the United States Drug Enforcement Agency. The agency denied the claim on November 9, 2016. (SOF ¶ 2.) Plaintiffs filed this case on May 6, 2017. (Compl.) Plaintiffs make a single FTCA claim in which they allege that federal agents negligently executed the search and seizure warrant, which resulted in wrongfully seized and damaged property, lost profits, and emotional pain and suffering. (Compl.) On March 20, 2018, the Court dismissed the lost profits portion of Plaintiffs' claim for lack of subject matter jurisdiction. (Doc. 46, Mar. 20, 2018 Order at 3-5.) With the instant motions, the Government again seeks dismissal for lack of subject matter jurisdiction under the FTCA, or alternatively, summary judgment for insufficient evidence supporting Plaintiffs' claim.


         A. Rule 12(b)(1) - Dismissal for Lack of Subject Matter Jurisdiction

         “A motion to dismiss for lack of subject matter jurisdiction under Rule 12(b)(1) may attack either the allegations of the complaint as insufficient to confer upon the court subject matter jurisdiction, or the existence of subject matter jurisdiction in fact.” Renteria v. United States, 452 F.Supp.2d 910, 919 (D. Ariz. 2006) (citing Thornhill Publ'g Co. v. Gen. Tel. & Elecs. Corp., 594 F.2d 730, 733 (9th Cir. 1979)). “Where the jurisdictional issue is separable from the merits of the case, the [court] may consider the evidence presented with respect to the jurisdictional issue and rule on that issue, resolving factual disputes if necessary.” Thornhill, 594 F.2d at 733; see also Autery v. United States, 424 F.3d 944, 956 (9th Cir. 2005) (“With a 12(b)(1) motion, a court may weigh the evidence to determine whether it has jurisdiction.”). The burden of proof is on the party asserting jurisdiction to show that the court has subject matter jurisdiction. See Indus. Tectonics, Inc. v. Aero Alloy, 912 F.2d 1090, 1092 (9th Cir. 1990).

         B. Rule 56 - Summary Judgment

         Summary judgment is appropriate when: (1) the movant shows that there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact; and (2) after viewing the evidence most favorably to the non-moving party, the movant is entitled to prevail as a matter of law. Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c); Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322-23 (1986); Eisenberg v. Ins. Co. of N. Am., 815 F.2d 1285, 1288-89 (9th Cir. 1987). “Only disputes over facts that might affect the outcome of the suit under governing [substantive] law will properly preclude the entry of summary judgment.” Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986). A “genuine issue” of material fact arises only “if the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving party.” Id.

         In considering a motion for summary judgment, the court must regard as true the non-moving party's evidence, if it is supported by affidavits or other evidentiary material. Celotex, 477 U.S. at 324; Eisenberg, 815 F.2d at 1289. The non-moving party may not merely rest on its pleadings; it must produce some significant probative evidence tending to contradict the moving party's allegations, thereby creating a material question of fact. Anderson, 477 U.S. at 256-57 (holding that plaintiff must present affirmative evidence to defeat properly supported motion for summary judgment); First Nat'l Bank of Ariz. v. Cities Serv. Co., 391 U.S. 253, 289 (1968).

         “A summary judgment motion cannot be defeated by relying solely on conclusory allegations unsupported by factual data.” Taylor v. List, 880 F.2d 1040, 1045 (9th Cir. 1989). “Summary judgment must be entered ‘against a party who fails to make a showing sufficient to establish the existence of an element essential to that party's case, and on which that party will bear the burden of proof at trial.'” United States v. Carter, 906 F.2d 1375, 1376 (9th Cir. 1990) (quoting Celotex, 477 U.S. at 322).

         III. ANALYSIS

         The Court begins and ends with the Government's motion to dismiss. Given the Court's limited jurisdiction, Plaintiffs must first show that this case falls within the Court's subject matter jurisdiction. See Kokkonen v. Guardian Life Ins. Co. of Am., 511 ...

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