Rhode Island federal court Judge William E. Smith last week denied a motion to dismiss filed by the defendant United States of America in the case involving the tragic death of a detainee, Hiu Liu “Jason” Ng.
This case involves allegations of mistreatment and neglect of a federal immigration detainee, Hiu Liu Ng (“Jason”). Jason died of cancer, which was not diagnosed until just prior to his death. In the motion before the Court, the United States of America (“Defendant” or “United States”) moves to dismiss the Second Amended Complaint filed by Plaintiff Lin Li Qu (“Michelle” or “Plaintiff”) for claims arising out of her husband’s care while he was detained by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (“ICE”). The United States contends that the Court lacks subject matter jurisdiction to hear Plaintiff’s claims under the Federal Tort Claims Act, 28 U.S.C. § 2674, (“FTCA”) because Plaintiff did not comply with the required administrative notice provisions and Defendant did not waive its sovereign immunity with respect to the alleged wrongful conduct committed by its independent contractors. Defendant also argues that Plaintiff’s negligence claim fails to state a claim upon which relief can be granted. See Fed. R. Civ. Pro. 12(b)(6).
In the Court’s view, Plaintiff has met her burden to demonstrate that the jurisdictional prerequisites have been met because the amended notice necessarily incorporates all the allegations in the Second Amended Complaint. Moreover, even if the Court found the filings somehow lacking, Plaintiff could merely amend her notice. This, of course, would result in significant time, expense, and delay, only to bring the case back to its present posture once more.
Therefore, because the United States had notice as to the claims against it, and was given ample opportunity to assess whether settlement presented a viable option, Plaintiff has satisfied the administrative notice requirement and has shown that subject matter jurisdiction is not lacking on this basis.
While the Court agrees that the United States retains its immunity insofar as any of Plaintiff’s allegations are based upon the actions of its co-Defendants (including CFDFC and its employees) the Second Amended Complaint includes allegations that the United States acted negligently in its own right. Thus, Count Fifteen as a claim for direct negligence, passes muster at this stage, if only by a thin reed. For these reasons, the Court concludes that Defendant’s motion to dismiss Plaintiff’s direct claim of negligence, on the basis of the independent contractor defense, must be denied.
The Court must take the allegations in the Second Amended Complaint as true. Here, Plaintiff alleges sufficient facts to support that it was negligent for ICE to act as it did after it was put on notice of Jason’s condition. Indeed, Plaintiff paints a harrowing picture in her Second Amended Complaint, which includes allegations of specific conduct by the United States that if proven arguably falls below the standard of care. Whether the evidence actually supports that the conduct occurred and breach can be established as a matter of law are issues that must be tested on summary judgment or at trial. For now, however, Plaintiff alleges enough to proceed on her claim of negligence.