McCarthy v. U.S., No. 86-2988

CourtUnited States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (9th Circuit)
Writing for the CourtBefore TANG, CANBY and BRUNETTI; TANG
PartiesRichard McCARTHY, Plaintiff-Appellant, v. UNITED STATES of America, Defendant-Appellee.
Decision Date28 June 1988
Docket NumberNo. 86-2988

Page 558

850 F.2d 558
Richard McCARTHY, Plaintiff-Appellant,
v.
UNITED STATES of America, Defendant-Appellee.
No. 86-2988.
United States Court of Appeals,
Ninth Circuit.
Argued and Submitted Dec. 18, 1987.
Decided June 28, 1988.

Page 559

Luke Ellis, Gillin, Jacobson & Ellis, Berkeley, Cal., for plaintiff-appellant.

Chris Stoll, Asst. U.S. Atty., San Francisco, Cal., for defendant-appellee.

Appeal from the United States District Court for the Northern District of California.

Before TANG, CANBY and BRUNETTI, Circuit Judges.

TANG, Circuit Judge:

Richard McCarthy appeals the district court's dismissal of his action against the United States under the Federal Tort Claims Act (FTCA), 28 U.S.C. Secs. 1346(b) and 2671 et seq. McCarthy was severely injured in a diving accident that occurred at a lake owned and operated by the United States and the Army Corps of Engineers as part of a federal flood control project. The district court concluded the United States was immune from liability under the Flood Control Act of 1928, 33 U.S.C. Sec. 702c. We affirm.

I.

Lewisville Lake is a reservoir in Denton County, Texas constructed by the Army Corps of Engineers "in the interest ... of flood control" under the River and Harbor Act, as amended, March 2, 1945, 33 U.S.C. Sec. 603a (1982). Although the State of Texas owns the water of Lewisville Lake, the United States owns the underlying land. The dam, constructed in connection with the flood control project, is owned and operated by the United States. Lewisville Lake is a multi-purpose project lake that has flood control as one of its purposes. The Corps monitors its water level daily and adjusts discharge rates when necessary.

The Lake also contains seventeen discrete parks, one of which is East Copperas Park. The Army Corps of Engineers operates East Copperas Park, and nine other parks located along the perimeter of the Lake, as a recreational facility. The construction, maintenance and operation of East Copperas Park is authorized by 16 U.S.C. Sec. 460d (1982). East Copperas Park does not have a designated swimming area. Its facilities include picnic tables, a boat ramp, and vehicle parking spaces. There is no use fee charged at the Park.

On April 20, 1984 Robert McCarthy went to East Copperas Park at Lewisville Lake to windsurf with two friends. Plaintiff dove into the water, at a point where he was about waist-deep, struck his head on the bottom of the lake and fractured his neck. As a result of his accident, McCarthy was rendered a quadriplegic.

McCarthy filed suit in federal district court, after his claim had been presented to and denied by the Department of the Army, on March 20, 1986. The complaint alleged: that the defendant constructed, maintained, operated and controlled the premises on which plaintiff was injured; that defendant controlled and permitted access to the location where plaintiff was injured and encouraged such use of the beach; that defendant had observed, but failed to prohibit, swimming and diving at that location; that the premises were dangerous and defective in several particularly

Page 560

described respects, and that defendant knew it; that despite such knowledge, defendant encouraged the public to dive there, failed to give any warning to foreseeable users of the beach of the known dangerous conditions, failed to prohibit diving, and failed to inspect the beach or make it safe.

The trial court, relying on United States v. James, 478 U.S. 597, 106 S.Ct. 3116, 92 L.Ed.2d 483 (1986), held the government was immune from liability under Sec. 702c of the Flood Control Act of 1928. McCarthy v. United States, 654 F.Supp. 33 (N.D.Cal.1986). The district court also determined the government's alleged negligence in failing to post warning signs at East Copperas Park was not "wholly unrelated" to a federal flood control project. Id. at 35. McCarthy timely appeals.

II.

The district court concluded it had no jurisdiction, based on its finding that Sec. 702c immunity applied, and dismissed the action. McCarthy contends that the district court's dismissal, pursuant to the government's motion under Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(1) and 12(b)(6), should be treated as one for summary judgment under Rule 56 as matters outside the pleadings were received and considered. We disagree.

The question whether the United States has waived its sovereign immunity against suits for damages is, in the first instance, a question of subject matter jurisdiction. See, e.g., Nevin v. United States, 696 F.2d 1229, 1231 (9th Cir.), cert. denied, 464 U.S. 815, 104 S.Ct. 70, 78 L.Ed.2d 84 (1983) (whether discretionary function exemption applies under FTCA question of subject matter jurisdiction); Wright v. United States, 719 F.2d 1032, 1034 (9th Cir.1983) (court lacks subject matter jurisdiction if claim against United States under FTCA falls within statutory exception); c.f., Mitchell v. Occidental Ins., Medicare, 619 F.2d 28, 30 (9th Cir.1980) (no constitutional right to sue the United States without its consent).

Moreover, when considering a motion to dismiss pursuant to Rule 12(b)(1) the district court is not restricted to the face of the pleadings, but may review any evidence, such as affidavits and testimony, to resolve factual disputes concerning the existence of jurisdiction. See, e.g., Land v. Dollar, 330 U.S. 731, 735 n. 4, 67 S.Ct. 1009, 1011 n. 4, 91 L.Ed. 1209 (1947) ("when a question of the District Court's jurisdiction is raised ... the court may inquire by affidavits or otherwise, into the facts as they exist."); Biotics Research Corp. v. Heckler, 710 F.2d 1375, 1379 (9th Cir.1983) (consideration of material outside the pleadings did not convert a Rule 12(b)(1) motion into one for summary judgment). Accordingly, we review the district court's action as a dismissal for lack of jurisdiction over the subject matter. The subject matter jurisdiction of a federal court presents a question of law, reviewable de novo. See Peter Starr Prod. Co. v. Twin Continental Films, Inc., 783 F.2d 1440, 1442 (9th Cir.1986).

III.

The question presented is whether McCarthy's action falls within the immunity provision of the Flood Control Act of 1928, 33 U.S.C. Sec. 702c (1982). Section 702c provides: "No liability of any kind shall attach to or rest upon the United States for any damage from or by floods or flood waters at any place." The Supreme Court recently underscored the broad scope of this provision in United States v. James, 478 U.S. 597, 106 S.Ct. 3116, 92 L.Ed.2d 483 (1986).

James involved accidents at flood control projects where recreational users of reservoirs were swept through water retaining structures when those...

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  • In re Mitchell, BAP No. CC-97-1350-OBMe
    • United States
    • U.S. Bankruptcy Appellate Panel, Ninth Circuit
    • July 15, 1998
    ...in the first instance, a question of subject matter jurisdiction and a question of law, reviewable de novo. See McCarthy v. United States, 850 F.2d 558, 560 (9th Cir.1988), cert. denied, 489 U.S. 1052, 109 S.Ct. 1312, 103 L.Ed.2d 581 (1989). The party bringing the action in federal court be......
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    • United States District Courts. 9th Circuit. United States District Courts. 9th Circuit. Northern District of California
    • August 7, 2020
    ...extrinsic evidence beyond the complaint without converting a motion to dismiss into one for summary judgment. McCarthy v. United States, 850 F.2d 558, 560 (9th Cir. 1988) (holding that a court "may review any evidence, such as affidavits and testimony, to resolve factual disputes concerning......
  • Low v. Linkedin Corp., Case No. 11–CV–01468–LHK.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 9th Circuit. United States District Courts. 9th Circuit. Eastern District of California
    • July 12, 2012
    ...evidence beyond the complaint without converting a motion to dismiss into one for summary judgment. See id.;McCarthy v. United States, 850 F.2d 558, 560 (9th Cir.1988) (holding that a court “may review any evidence, such as affidavits and testimony, to resolve factual disputes concerning th......
  • Bruton v. Gerber Prods. Co., Case No.: 12–CV–02412–LHK
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 9th Circuit. United States District Courts. 9th Circuit. Eastern District of California
    • September 6, 2013
    ...such as affidavits and testimony, to resolve factual disputes concerning the existence of jurisdiction.” McCarthy v. United States, 850 F.2d 558, 560 (9th Cir.1988). If the plaintiff lacks standing under Article III of the U.S. Constitution, then the court lacks subject matter jurisdiction,......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
951 cases
  • In re Mitchell, BAP No. CC-97-1350-OBMe
    • United States
    • U.S. Bankruptcy Appellate Panel, Ninth Circuit
    • July 15, 1998
    ...in the first instance, a question of subject matter jurisdiction and a question of law, reviewable de novo. See McCarthy v. United States, 850 F.2d 558, 560 (9th Cir.1988), cert. denied, 489 U.S. 1052, 109 S.Ct. 1312, 103 L.Ed.2d 581 (1989). The party bringing the action in federal court be......
  • La Clinica De La Raza v. Trump, Case No. 19-cv-04980-PJH
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 9th Circuit. United States District Courts. 9th Circuit. Northern District of California
    • August 7, 2020
    ...extrinsic evidence beyond the complaint without converting a motion to dismiss into one for summary judgment. McCarthy v. United States, 850 F.2d 558, 560 (9th Cir. 1988) (holding that a court "may review any evidence, such as affidavits and testimony, to resolve factual disputes concerning......
  • Low v. Linkedin Corp., Case No. 11–CV–01468–LHK.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 9th Circuit. United States District Courts. 9th Circuit. Eastern District of California
    • July 12, 2012
    ...evidence beyond the complaint without converting a motion to dismiss into one for summary judgment. See id.;McCarthy v. United States, 850 F.2d 558, 560 (9th Cir.1988) (holding that a court “may review any evidence, such as affidavits and testimony, to resolve factual disputes concerning th......
  • Bruton v. Gerber Prods. Co., Case No.: 12–CV–02412–LHK
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 9th Circuit. United States District Courts. 9th Circuit. Eastern District of California
    • September 6, 2013
    ...such as affidavits and testimony, to resolve factual disputes concerning the existence of jurisdiction.” McCarthy v. United States, 850 F.2d 558, 560 (9th Cir.1988). If the plaintiff lacks standing under Article III of the U.S. Constitution, then the court lacks subject matter jurisdiction,......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

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