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Wold v. United States

United States District Court, Eighth Circuit

May 10, 2013

ANDREA S. WOLD, Plaintiff,
v.
UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, Defendant.

James W. Balmer, FALSANI, BALMER, PETERSON, QUINN & BEYER, 306 West Superior Street, Suite 1200, Duluth, MN 55802, for plaintiff.

Lonnie F. Bryan, Assistant United States Attorney, UNITED STATES ATTORNEY'S OFFICE, 600 United States Courthouse, 300 South Fourth Street, Minneapolis, MN 55415, for defendant.

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER GRANTING MOTION TO DISMISS

JOHN R. TUNHEIM, District Judge.

Andrea S. Wold ("Wold") brings this action for injuries she suffered due to falling on the ice while attempting to mail a letter on or near the United States Postal Service ("USPS") facilities in the City of Grand Rapids, Minnesota ("the City"). The United States brings a motion to dismiss for lack of subject matter jurisdiction under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(1) and a motion for summary judgment under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56. The Court will grant the United States's motions because there is no evidence that the United States can be held liable for snow and ice removal in the area where Wold fell.

BACKGROUND

On January 26, 2010, at about 1:45 P.M., Wold slipped and fell on a drive-through placed next to a concrete island near the post office in the City. ( See Compl. § 1, June 20, 2011, Docket No. 1; Mem. in Support of Mot. to Dismiss, Ex. B (Dep. of Ken Johnson 9), Nov. 30, 2012, Docket No. 10; Id., Ex. C at 20.) The island contained two mailboxes and a City payment deposit box. ( Id., Ex. C at 3-4, 20-21.) The City built the island to provide its citizens access to the mailboxes from their cars. ( Id., Ex. A (Dep. of Jeff Davies 8-9).)

The United States claims that the City owns the island, as well as the two to three feet of land next to the island where Wold likely slipped. ( See id., Ex. C at 4; Johnson Dep. 18.)[1] Wold's counsel alleged at oral argument that this two to three feet of land may in fact be owned by the USPS, but he offered no evidence to support this allegation and stated that he was not sure who owned the land.

The parties agree that the portion of the drive-through more than two or three feet away from the mailboxes (which is closer in proximity to the post office) is owned by the USPS and subject to an easement owned by the City. When the City constructed the drive-through, the USPS granted the City an easement to build the drive-through "for the purpose of public ingress and egress and construction and maintenance of concrete curb and gutter, concrete pavement, sidewalk, and associated improvements...." (Mem. in Support of Mot. to Dismiss, Ex. C at 1.)

Wold's complaint does not clarify where she fell in relationship to the drivethrough, island, or easement. It merely alleges that Wold suffered injury "while using United States Postal Service facilities, " referring to the mailboxes, with no allegation about who owned the land where she fell. ( See Compl. § 1 (emphasis added).) Wold has also provided no evidence regarding the exact location where she fell.[2] At oral argument, Wold's counsel stated that it was not clear from the record exactly where Wold fell and that Wold does not recall, but that it was near the mailboxes. It is thus unclear if Wold fell on property owned by the USPS or the City.

The City regularly removed snow and ice from the entire drive-through. (Davies Dep. 16.) On January 24 through 26, 2010, the City plowed, removed snow, and deiced the drive-through. It also brushed and cleared the adjacent sidewalk. ( Id. 32-40, 61-65.)

The USPS has never removed snow or ice from the drive-through. (Johnson Dep. 15-16.) The USPS also never asked the City to plow or remove snow from the drivethrough on any specific occasion. ( Id. 15.) However, the City's agreement with the USPS regarding the easement portion of the drive-through provides:

That any construction, maintenance or repair of the mail drop box drive through, sidewalk and collection box island during normal business hours of the Post Office shall be made on such terms and conditions as the Postmaster of Grand Rapids, Minnesota shall approve....

Furthermore, it is understood between the parties to this agreement that the United States Postal Service shall reserve the right to maintain and/or alter the improvements described herein.

(Mem. in Support of Mot. to Dismiss, Ex. C at 1). It appears that the City never sought or obtained approval from the USPS regarding the details of its snow and ice removal. (Johnson Dep. 15; Davies Dep. 17.) Also, the United States claims that most of the snow and ...


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