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Court lacks jurisdiction over removed FTCA suit

Where the state court initially lacks jurisdiction over a suit that is then removed to federal court, the federal court also lacks jurisdiction. Because the Federal Tort Claims Act, or FTCA, requires suits to be filed in federal court, and the plaintiff here first filed suit in state court, there was no jurisdiction.


Sherman Argenbright, proceeding pro se, filed a warrant in debt in Roanoke City General District Court, alleging that Margaret Garber, the Assistant United States Trustee, assisted Roanoke lawyers to engage in fraud. Garber removed the case to this court and the United States filed a motion to substitute itself as the sole defendant, which this court granted. This case is now before the court on the government’s motion to dismiss for lack of subject-matter jurisdiction and for failure to state a claim.


Under the doctrine of derivate jurisdiction, if a state court lacks subject-matter jurisdiction to adjudicate a case, and that case is then removed to federal court, the federal court similarly lacks jurisdiction because, upon removal, the federal court derives its jurisdiction from the state court — even if the federal court would have jurisdiction in a similar suit originally filed there.

The doctrine applies here and precludes the court from exercising jurisdiction over Argenbright’s case. Argenbright originally filed this suit in Roanoke City General District Court. However, his claim is subject to the FTCA, which grants “exclusive jurisdiction” to the federal courts over civil actions brought against the United States for monetary damages “for injury or loss of property … caused by the negligent or wrongful act or omission of any employee of the Government while acting within the scope of [her] office or employment, under circumstances where the United States, if a private person, would be liable to the claimant in accordance with the law of the place where the act or omission occurred.”

Thus, the state court did not have jurisdiction over Argenbright’s claim in the first instance. Although the government removed the case to this court, the derivative-jurisdiction doctrine still applies. As such, although this court might have had jurisdiction over Argenbright’s claim were it originally filed here, because this FTCA case began in state court and the government then removed under § 1442, this court now lacks subject-matter jurisdiction.

Defendant’s motion to dismiss granted.

Argenbright v. United States of America, Case No. 7:22-cv-00119, Feb. 1, 2023. WDVA at Roanoke (Dillon). VLW 023-3-037. 6 pp.

VLW 023-3-037