Deuser v. Vecera

139 F.3d 1190 (8th Cir. 1998)



When a district court dismisses claims under Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(1) for lack of subject matter jurisdiction, an appellate court reviews de novo. An appellate court accepts all of the factual allegations in the complaint as true and ask whether, in these circumstances, dismissal of the complaint was appropriate. 


After the local police opted not to process the arrest of the decedent, who was arrested by national park rangers for grabbing women and urinating in public at a fair that occurred at a national park, the park rangers decided to release the decedent away from the park so that he would not return to the fair that same evening. After being freed alone in a parking lot with no money and no transportation, the intoxicated decedent wandered onto a highway and was killed by a motorist. Appellants, the decedent's family brought suit for wrongful death, which the district court dismissed for lack of subject matter jurisdiction. Appellant's sought review and the court affirmed the dismissal.  


Did the appellate court err in accepting the factual allegations and affirming the district court's dismissal of the claim for lack of subject matter jurisdiction?




The rangers' conduct falls within the discretionary function exception of the FTCA, and there is no federal subject matter jurisdiction for appellants' FTCA wrongful death claims. The conduct of the rangers here is the classic example of a "permissible exercise of policy judgment." The decision to terminate the arrest without charging the decedent was a discretionary function reserved to the judgment of the rangers and the rangers' action was grounded in the social, economic, and political goals of the enforcement guidelines that were published in the fair operations handbook.

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