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Jones v. United States

United States District Court, D. Maryland, Southern Division

February 2, 2017

VINCENT JONES, et al., Plaintiffs,


          George .J. Hazel United States District Judge.

         Plaintiffs Vincent Jones and Demetria Weir bring this pro se action against the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development ("HUD")[1] for a dispute relating to inoperable air conditioning ("A/C") units and water damage in a home sold to Mr. Jones. Now pending before the Court is the United States* Motion to Dismiss or in the Alternative for Summary Judgment. ECF No. 8. No hearing is necessary. See Loc. R. 105.6. For the following reasons. Defendant's Motion to Dismiss is granted.

         I. BACKGROUND

         Vincent Jones purchased a single-family dwelling located at 4635 Bridgemount Place. La Plata. MD 20646 on July 2. 2015[2] with Demetria Weir acting as his broker. ECF No. 8-3 at 1.[3] The HUD Property Condition Report stated that the A/C units on the property were inoperable. ECF No. 2 at 2; ECF No. 8-2 at 28.[4] Between the sales date and date of closing, the A/C units were stolen from the property. ECF No. 2 at 2. HUD initially declined to provide a credit to Plaintiffs, but eventually offered a $1.000.00 credit. Id. The cost to replace the units was $4, 900.00. HUD's property management company informed Plaintiffs that HUD would not replace the units because the units, which were 8 years old or newer, were "inoperable when energized." Id.

         A few weeks after the "A/C issue, " Plaintiffs also discovered "severe ceiling water leaks"" on the property when the water was tested. Id. The Property Inspection Report, which had been provided previously, slated there were "no water leaks in the property." Id. The water leak repairs and damages cost $5, 300.00. Id. HUD provided Plaintiffs a $3, 500.00 credit. Id. Therefore, between replacing the A/C units and repairing the water damage. Plaintiffs allegedly incurred a total of $4, 900.00 after subtracting credits received from HUD.

         On January 12. 2016, Plaintiffs filed the instant Pro se Complaint in the District Court of Maryland for Charles County, seeking damages for the home repairs and inaccurate representations in the Property Inspection Report. ECF No. 2. Defendant removed the action to this Court on March 11. 2016. ECF No. 1. Defendant filed a Motion to Dismiss or in the Alternative for Summary Judgment on April 15, 2016. ECF No. 8. Plaintiffs filed a Response on July 1. 2016. ECF No. 11. Defendant filed its Reply on July 8. 2016. ECF No. 12.


         "It is well established that before a federal court ean decide the merits of a claim, the claim must invoke the jurisdiction of the court." Miller v. Brown. 462 F.3d 312, 316 (4th Cir. 2006). Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(1) governs motions to dismiss for lack of subject matter jurisdiction. See Khoury v. Meserve, 268 F.Supp.2d 600. 606 (D. Md. 2003), aff'd, 85 F. App"x 960 (4th Cir. 2004). Once a challenge is made to subject matter jurisdiction. Plaintiffs bear the burden of proving that subject matter jurisdiction exists. See Evans v. B.F. Perkins Co., a Div. of Standex Int'l Corp., 166 F.3d 642. 647 (4th Cir. 1999); see also Ferdinand-Davenport v. Children's Guild. 742 F.Supp.2d 772. 777 (D. Md. 2010).

         The Court should grant a Rule 12(b)(1) motion "only if the material jurisdictional facts are not in dispute and the moving party is entitled to prevail as a matter of law." Evans. 166 F.3d at 647. In ruling on a motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(1), the Court "should regard the pleadings as mere evidence on the issue, and may consider evidence outside the pleadings without converting the proceeding to one for summary judgment." Ferdinand-Davenport. 742 F.Supp.2d at 777 (quoting Evans. 166 F.3d at 647); see also Richmond. Fredericksburg & Potomac R.R. Co. v. United States. 945 F.2d 765, 768 (4th Cir. 1991).

         III. ANALYSIS

         Plaintiffs' Complaint does not specify a legal cause of action. However, the Court must construe pleadings of pro se litigants liberally. See Mow v. United States. No. CIV. A. ELH-12-1857, 2013 WL 762971. at *3 (D. Md. Feb. 26. 2013) (citing Eriekson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89. 94 (2007)). Thus. Plaintiffs' claims shall be construed as claims arising under the Federal Tort Claims Act ("FTCA"). 28 U.S.C. §§ 1346. 2401, and 2671-2680. See id: Milton v. U.S. Dep 7 of Rous. & Urban Dev.. No. CIV 09-2226JNE/FLN, 2010 WL 1486498. at *2 (D. Minn. Mar. 19.2010) (construing negligent home inspection claim against HUD as claim under FTCA).[5]

         A. Exhaustion

         The FTCA requires that a claimant first exhaust administrative remedies with the appropriate federal agency before pursuing a claim in federal court. Section 2675 of the FTCA provides, in relevant part:

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 ...

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