United States District Court, W.D. Kentucky, Bowling Green Division
SANDRA RODGERS, as Administratrix of The Estate of Michelle A. Meredith and RONALD MEREDITH, as Administrator of The Estate of Donald R. Meredith PLAINTIFFS
MAMMOTH CAVE NATIONAL PARK and UNITED STATES OF AMERICA DEFENDANT
N. STIVERS JUDGE
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
BRENT BRENNENSTUHL UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE.
the Court is the Plaintiffs' motion to amend their
complaint, DN 13. The Defendants have responded in opposition
at ¶ 20 and the Plaintiffs have replied at ¶ 22.
of the Case
to the Plaintiffs' Complaint (DN 1), on March 3, 2015,
Michelle and Donald Meredith were traveling by automobile
through Mammoth Cave National Park. The Green River runs
through the park and the Green River Ferry transports
vehicles across the river. Plaintiffs allege that the
Merediths drove their vehicle onto the ferry but accidentally
drove through the barrier on the opposite end, plunging into
the river where they drowned.
Plaintiffs, representatives of the Merediths' estates,
filed this action on March 2, 2016, citing jurisdiction under
the Suits in Admiralty Act, 46 U.S.C. § 30901 et
seq. or, in the alternative, the Public Vessels Act, 46
U.S.C. § 31101 et seq. The complaint alleges
that the Defendants' operation of the ferry breached a
variety of duties owed to the Merediths as passengers.
November 9, 2016, the Defendants filed a motion to dismiss
the case for lack of jurisdiction (DN 12). Defendants argue
in that motion that the Green River is not a navigable
waterway for purposes of establishing admiralty jurisdiction
at the location of the accident. As such, the Defendants
contend the limited waivers of sovereign immunity in the
Suits in Admiralty Act and Public Vessels Act do not apply in
Plaintiffs contend there is no connection with the
Defendants' motion to dismiss, on December 1, 2016, they
filed the subject motion seeking leave to file a first
amended complaint. The amended complaint adds an additional
jurisdictional basis under the Federal Tort Claims Act
(“FTCA”), in accordance with 28 U.S.C. §
1346(b) (DN 13-1).
Motion to Amend
order to maintain an action against the United States under
the FTCA, a claimant must first have presented the claim to
the appropriate federal agency and had the claim denied or no
action taken by the agency within six months from the date of
presentation. 28 U.S.C. § 2675(a). A claim is presented
by way of Standard Form 95 or other written notification of
the incident. 28 C.F.R. § 14.2(a). Exhaustion of
administrative remedies is a prerequisite to instituting
litigation seeking relief under the FTCA. McNeil v.
United States, 5085 U.S. 106, 107 (1993).
state that, in order to preserve their option to amend the
complaint to add claims under the FTCA, they served
administrative claim forms SF-95 on the United States. They
attached copies of the forms and proof of receipt as exhibits
to the motion (DN 13-2 & 13-3). As six months have now
elapsed with no responsive action by United States,
Plaintiffs contend that they have exhausted their
administrative remedy and are authorized to amend their
complaint to assert a claim under the FTCA.
Defendants' Opposition to the Motion to
Defendants do not contest that Plaintiffs submitted a claim
to the United States Department of the Interior, that the
Department of the Interior was the proper agency to which the
claim should have been directed or that the Department has
not made a determination within six months of filing. The
Defendants oppose the motion to amend, however, because the
claim was not submitted until after this litigation
was commenced. Defendants point to the language of 28 U.S.C.
2675(a) which requires exhaustion of administrative remedies
before litigation is commenced:
An action shall not be instituted upon a claim against the
United States for money damages for injury or loss of
property or personal injury or death caused by the negligent
or wrongful act or omission of any employee of the Government
while acting within the scope of his office or employment,
unless the claimant shall have first presented the claim to
the appropriate Federal agency and his claim shall have been
finally denied by the agency in writing and sent by certified
or registered mail. The failure of an agency to make final
disposition of a claim within six months after it is filed
shall, at the option of the claimant any time thereafter, be
deemed a final denial of the claim for purposes of this
section. The ...