United States District Court, D. Idaho
DENNIS RUCHERT and CHERYL RUCHERT a/k/a/ CHERYL YOUNG, husband and wife, Plaintiffs,
JOHN PETE WILLIAMSON and JANE DOE WILLIAMSON, husband and wife; NEZ PERCE TRIBAL POLICE; and NEZ PERCE TRIBE, Defendants.
MEMORANDUM DECISION AND ORDER
before the Court is Defendants' Motion to Dismiss for
Lack of Jurisdiction (Dkt. 7). The motion is fully briefed
and at issue. For the reasons explained below, the Court will
grant the motion and dismiss Plaintiffs' claims.
negligence action arises from a motor vehicle collision on
March 27, 2014, involving Plaintiffs Dennis Ruchert and
Cheryl Ruchert and Defendant John Pete Williamson, an
employee of the Nez Perce Tribal Police Department. On March
8, 2016, Plaintiffs filed suit in state court, alleging that
the collision was caused by Williamson's negligence and
seeking damages for personal injuries and property damage.
Defendants had the action removed to this Court on September
14, 2016. See Dkt. 3-2.
thereafter, the United States filed the present Motion to
Dismiss for lack of subject matter jurisdiction. Dkt. 7. The
United States Attorney for the District of Idaho, on behalf
of the Attorney General, filed a certification pursuant to 28
U.S.C. § 2679(d)(1) stating that Williamson was acting
within the scope of his employment with the Nez Perce Tribal
Police Department at the time of the accident. See
Certification of United States Attorney Wendy J. Olson
at 2, Dkt. 7-2. The certification also attests that
Defendants Williamson, Nez Perce Tribal Police, and Nez Perce
Tribe were performing authorized functions under the
tribe's funding contract with the Bureau of Indian
Affairs pursuant to the Indian Self Determination and
Education Assistance Act (“ISDEAA”), Pub. L.
101-512 § 314, 25 U.S.C. § 450f. Accordingly, the
United States argues that it must be substituted as the sole
named defendant in this action and that Plaintiffs'
exclusive remedy lies under the Federal Tort Claims Act
(“FTCA”), 28 U.S.C. § 2679. Because
Plaintiffs failed to file an administrative tort claim with
Williamson's employing agency prior to filing suit, as
required by the FTCA, the United States argues that this
court lacks subject matter jurisdiction to hear their claims.
Overview of Federal Tort Claims Act
Federal Tort Claims Act, 28 U.S.C. §§ 1346,
2671-2680, waives the United States' sovereign immunity
for “certain torts of federal employees acting within
the scope of their employment.” See United States
v. Orleans, 425 U.S. 807, 814 (1976) (citing 28 U.S.C.
§ 1346(b)(1). As defined in the FTCA, an “employee
of the government” includes (1) “officers or
employees of any federal agency . . . and persons acting on
behalf of a federal agency in an official capacity,
temporarily or permanently in the service of the United
States, whether with or without compensation.” 28
U.S.C. § 2671.
of a tribe or tribal organization may be deemed
“federal employees” for purposes of the FTCA when
acting pursuant to a contract authorized by the Indian
Self-Determination and Education Assistance Act of 1975
(“ISDEAA”). See Pub. L.101-512, 25
U.S.C. § 450f. The ISDEAA created a system by which
tribes could take over the administration of programs or
services to Indian populations that otherwise would be
provided by the Federal government. See Los Coyotes Band
of Cahuilla & Cupeño Indians v.
Jewell, 729 F.3d 1025, 1033 (9th Cir. 2013). Congress
extended the FTCA's waiver of sovereign immunity to
claims “resulting from the performance of
functions” under ISDEAA “contract[s], grant
agreement[s], or cooperative agreement[s].” 25 U.S.C.
§ 450f. However, this waiver of sovereign immunity is
[A]n Indian tribe, tribal organization or Indian contractor
is deemed hereafter to be part of the Bureau of Indian
Affairs . . . while carrying out any such contract or
agreement and its employees are deemed employees of the
Bureau . . . while acting within the scope of their
employment in carrying out the contract or agreement.
FTCA empowers the Attorney General to certify that a federal
employee sued for wrongful or negligent conduct “was
acting within the scope of his office or employment at the
time of the incident out of which the claim arose.”
§ 2679(d)(1). Upon such certification, the action
“shall be deemed an action against the United States
under the provisions of [the FTCA], and the United States
shall be substituted as the party defendant.”
Id.; see also Walker v. Chugachmiut, 46 F.
App'x 421, 424 (9th Cir. 2002) (citation omitted)
(“Once certification is given in a civil action, the
[FTCA] mandates . . . substitution of the United States as
the defendant.”). “The Attorney General's
decision regarding scope of employment certification is
conclusive unless challenged.” See Green v.
Hall, 8 F.3d 695, 698 (9th Cir. 1993) (citing 28 U.S.C.
Application of the Federal Tort Claims Act The United States
Attorney for the District of Idaho certified, on behalf of
the Attorney General, that Defendant John Williamson was
acting within the course and scope of his employment with the
Nez Perce Tribal Police Department during the relevant time
period. See Certification of United States Attorney
Wendy J. Olson, Dkt. 7-2. The U.S. Attorney also certified
that Defendants Williamson, Nez Perce Tribal Police, and Nez
Perce Tribe were performing authorized functions under the
Nez Perce Tribe's ISDEAA contract with the Bureau of
Indian Affairs. Id. Plaintiffs have not challenged