United States District Court, D. Minnesota
MEMORANDUM AND ORDER
A. Magnuson United States District Court Judge
matter is before the Court on Defendant's Motion to
Dismiss or, in the alternative, for Summary Judgment. For the
following reasons, the Motion is granted.
Monday, January 20, 2014, Plaintiff Shawn McNally stopped by
the Post Office in St. Francis, Minnesota, apparently not
realizing that it was closed for observance of the Martin
Luther King, Jr., holiday. (Marentette Decl. (Docket No. 46)
Ex. A (McNally Dep.) at 18-21.) As she approached the front
door, she slipped on ice and fell, hitting the back of her
head on the sidewalk. (Id. at 24.) She lost
consciousness and she claims to have suffered a traumatic
brain injury and an aneurism as a result of her fall.
exhausting her administrative remedies, she brought this
lawsuit for negligence under the Federal Tort Claims Act
(“FTCA”), 28 U.S.C. § 1346 et seq. The
Government now moves to dismiss, claiming that the Court
lacks subject-matter jurisdiction over McNally's claims.
In the alternative, the Government argues that summary
judgment is appropriate because there was no breach of a duty
and McNally's negligence claim therefore fails.
FTCA operates to waive the federal government's sovereign
immunity for certain tort claims. This waiver, however, is
not absolute, and as relevant here, is subject to a
discretionary function exception. 28 U.S.C. § 2680(a).
determine whether the exception applies, the Court first
examines whether the suit concerns “acts that involve
an element of judgment or choice”; in other words,
“acts that are discretionary in nature.”
Compart's Boar Store, Inc. v. United States, 829
F.3d 600, 604 (8th Cir. 2016) (quotation omitted). The Court
must then determine “whether the government acted or
based its decision on considerations of public policy.”
Id. (quotation omitted).
Determining whether the discretionary function exception
applies is not a fact-intensive exercise, as the court will
only look to the nature of the challenged decision in an
objective, or general sense, and ask whether that decision is
one which we would expect inherently to be grounded in
considerations of policy.
Chang-Williams v. Dep't of the Navy, 766
F.Supp.2d 604, 617 (D. Md. 2011). McNally bears the burden to
establish that the discretionary function exception does not
Government argues that the Postmaster's duty to clear the
walks on federal holidays is a quintessential discretionary
function. The Postal Service's Supervisor's Safety
Handbook provides that the Postmaster “must establish
snow and ice removal plans where necessary” and
“[p]rovide for reinspection and cleaning as often as
necessary.” (Marentette Decl. (Docket No. 46) Ex. F
(Handbook EL-801, Supervisor's Safety Handbook) §
8-15.2.) According to the Government, these policies vest the
Postmaster with substantial discretion regarding snow and ice
removal, especially when the post office is closed. The St.
Francis Postmaster testified that he had a snow removal plan
that provides for a contractor to clear the parking lot and
walks, and for the Postmaster or other employees to check the
sidewalks throughout the day and shovel or apply deicer if
necessary. (Id. Ex. C (Wolfgram Dep.) at 35, 37,
39.) The contractor clears the lot and walks whether the post
office is open or closed, but the Postmaster does not remove
snow or ice from the walks or require other employees to do
so on days the post office is closed. (Id. at 57,
argues that the discretionary function exception does not
apply because the St. Francis Postmaster has a
non-discretionary duty to establish a policy regarding snow
and ice removal. She contends that no such policy existed at
the St. Francis post office. But her contention is belied by
the Postmaster's testimony. The Postmaster's
snow-removal policy was that the walkways would not be
cleared on federal holidays, and McNally points to no
authority that a post office must clear its sidewalks on days
it is closed. The decision regarding holiday shoveling is
within the Postmaster's discretion for purposes of the
first step of the discretionary-function analysis.
Postmaster's decision regarding holiday snow removal is
certainly “susceptible to policy analysis” for
purposes of the second discretionary-function test.
United States v. Gaubert, 499 U.S. 315, 325 (1991).
The Court must “presume that the [Post Office's]
acts are grounded in policy when exercising [its]
discretion.” Id. at 324. The St. Francis
Postmaster must balance the small staff, his budget, and
other considerations when determining whether to remove snow
and ice on federal holidays. See Stephenson v. United
States, No. 1:16cv11979, 2017 WL 5760451, at *5 (S.D.
W.Va. Nov. 28, 2017) (determining that there are “a
number of rational public policy reasons for the
Postmaster's decisions regarding snow removal on
holidays”). Thus, the Postmaster's snow-removal
decision is policy-based and is immune from challenge on that
claims are barred by the discretionary function exception to
the FTCA. The Court therefore lacks subject-matter
jurisdiction over this matter and it must be dismissed.
Having determined that there is no jurisdiction, the Court
need not address the Government's ...