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Owen v. United States

United States District Court, W.D. North Carolina, Asheville Division

November 18, 2019

PAUL OWEN, Plaintiff,
v.
UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM OF DECISION AND ORDER

          MARTIN REIDINGER UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         THIS MATTER is before the Court on the Government's Motion to Dismiss [Doc. 8]; the Magistrate Judge's Memorandum and Recommendation [Doc. 10] regarding the disposition of said motion; and the Plaintiff's Objections to the Judge's Memorandum and Recommendation [Doc. 12].

         I. PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

         On January 16, 2019, Paul E. Owen (the “Plaintiff”) brought this action against the United States of America (the “Government”), asserting a claim based on negligence. [Doc. 1 at ¶ 8]. On March 22, 2019, the Government filed a Motion to Dismiss Complaint Pursuant to Rule 12(b)(1) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. [Doc. 8]. Pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(b) and the Standing Orders of Designation of this Court, the Honorable William Carleton Metcalf, United States Magistrate Judge, was designated to consider the Government's motion to dismiss and to submit a recommendation for its disposition. On September 17, 2019, the Magistrate Judge issued a Memorandum and Recommendation, which recommended that the Government's Motion to Dismiss be granted. [Doc. 10].

         On October 1, 2019, the Plaintiff filed Objections to Judge's Memorandum and Recommendation [Doc. 12]. On October 7, 2019, the Government filed a response to the Plaintiff's Objections to Memorandum and Recommendation [Doc. 13].

         II. STANDARD OF REVIEW

         The Federal Magistrate Act requires a district court to “make a de novo determination of those portions of the report or specific proposed findings or recommendations to which objection is made.” 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1). In order “to preserve for appeal an issue in a magistrate judge's report, a party must object to the finding or recommendation on that issue with sufficient specificity so as reasonably to alert the district court of the true ground for the objection.” United States v. Midgette, 478 F.3d 616, 622 (4th Cir. 2007). The Court is not required to review, under a de novo or any other standard, the factual or legal conclusions of the magistrate judge to which no objections have been raised. Thomas v. Arn, 474 U.S. 140, 150 (1985). Additionally, the Court need not conduct a de novo review where a party makes only “general and conclusory objections that do not direct the court to a specific error in the magistrate's proposed findings and recommendations.” Orpiano v. Johnson, 687 F.2d 44, 47 (4th Cir. 1982).

         III. DISCUSSION

         The Plaintiff has filed what purports to be objections to the Magistrate Judge's Memorandum and Recommendation. The Plaintiff's filing, however, does not identify any specific error in the Magistrate Judge's proposed conclusions of law. Rather, the Plaintiff simply restates the allegations and legal theories asserted in his Complaint.[1] Such “objections” do not warrant a de novo review of the Magistrate Judge's reasoning. Aldrich v. Bock, 327 F.Supp.2d 743, 747 (E.D. Mich. 2004) (“A general objection, or one that merely restates the arguments previously presented is not sufficient to alert the court to alleged errors on the part of the magistrate judge. An ‘objection' that does nothing more than state a disagreement with a magistrate's suggested resolution, or simply summarizes what has been presented before, is not an ‘objection' as that term is used in this context.”).

         Nevertheless, the Court will proceed to address the Plaintiff's arguments. The Plaintiff raises three objections to the Magistrate Judge's conclusions.

         First, the Plaintiff alleges that “[t]he Plaintiff's claim does not fall within the scope of 28 U.S.C. § 2680(c)” and “therefore the United States has waived its sovereign immunity for the Plaintiff's claim.” [Doc. 12 at 1].

         In this case, the Plaintiff alleges that the Government took possession of his vehicle and trailer at the time of his arrest. The Government did not seek forfeiture of this property, but simply stored it. [Doc. 1 at 3]. The Plaintiff asserts that the Government's storage of the property was negligent in that it was removed from storage, damaged, and abandoned. [Id. at 4].

         The United States is generally immune from suit, United States v. Testan, 424 U.S. 392, 399 (1976), unless that immunity is abrogated via a waiver such as the Federal Tort Claims Act (“FTCA”). 28 U.S.C. § 1346. The FTCA, however, does not apply to claims arising from “the detention of any goods, merchandise or other property by any officer of customs or excise or any other law enforcement officer[, ]” unless “the property was seized for the purpose of forfeiture . . . other than as a sentence imposed upon conviction of a criminal offense.” 28 U.S.C. § 2680(c).

         The Plaintiff argues that the FTCA applies here and waives the Government's sovereign immunity. [Doc. 12 at 2]. The Plaintiff's claim, however, is clearly for the negligent storage of detained property by law enforcement. The United States is immune from such a claim. Kosak v. U.S., 465 ...


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