FSM SUPREME COURT TRIAL DIVISION
Cite as Warren v. Pohnpei State Dep't of Public Safety,13 FSM Intrm. 154 (Pon. 2005)
[13 FSM Intrm. 154]
POHNPEI STATE DEPARTMENT OF PUBLIC
SAFETY, and the GOVERNMENT OF THE
STATE OF POHNPEI,
CIVIL ACTION NO. 2001-049
ORDER AND MEMORANDUM
Decided: February 18, 2005
Plaintiff: Stephen V. Finnen, Esq.
P.O. Box 1450
Kolonia, Pohnpei FM 96941
For the Defendants: L.M. Bacalando, Jr., Esq.
Assistant Attorney General
Pohnpei Department of Justice
P.O. Box 1555
Kolonia, Pohnpei, FM 96941
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A motion to dismiss John Doe defendants will be granted. Naming John Doe defendants is not a pleading practice recognized in the FSM. The John Doe defendants will be deleted from the caption and the caption on the parties' future filings will be consistent with the order. Warren v. Pohnpei State Dep't of Public Safety, 13 FSM Intrm. 154, 155 (Pon. 2005).
Since tort law generally is an area governed by state law, exemplary or punitive damages are not awardable against the State of Pohnpei under Pohnpei state law and a claim for exemplary damages against it will be dismissed. Warren v. Pohnpei State Dep't of Public Safety, 13 FSM Intrm. 154, 155 (Pon. 2005).
[13 FSM Intrm. 155]
A false imprisonment claim is separate and distinct from a civil rights claim. Warren v. Pohnpei State Dep't of Public Safety, 13 FSM Intrm. 154, 156 (Pon. 2005).
A plaintiff's tort claim will not be dismissed as duplicative of his civil rights claim without the benefit of trial because it would be premature to dismiss either claim since the plaintiff has yet to prove the necessary elements of one or both of his two distinct claims and because at this juncture the contention that the tort and civil rights claims are duplicative is without merit. Warren v. Pohnpei State Dep't of Public Safety, 13 FSM Intrm. 154, 156 (Pon. 2005).
A plaintiff's state law claims will not be dismissed because he is seeking a large amount of damages. The amount of damages sought does not determine whether a claim is to be dismissed. Warren v. Pohnpei State Dep't of Public Safety, 13 FSM Intrm. 154, 156 (Pon. 2005).
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MARTIN YINUG, Associate Justice:
On February 1, 2005, the defendants (collectively "Pohnpei") filed their motion for partial summary judgment. On February 10, 2005, plaintiff Gibson Warren ("Warren") filed his response.
The amended complaint contains five causes of action. The first is for the intentional tort of false imprisonment. Counts two through five allege various violations of the national civil rights statute, 11 F.S.M.C. 701 et seq. The amended complaint rests on allegations surrounding the treatment of Warren by Pohnpei police officers after he was arrested for alleged firearms violations in July of 2000.
Pohnpei seeks dismissal of the first count on the basis that Pohnpei police officers arrested Warren in accordance with law. However, it is not the arrest itself that is the basis for the false imprisonment claim, but rather events that occurred after the arrest while Warren was in the custody of the Pohnpei Department of Public Safety. Fact questions exist in this regard. Accordingly, Pohnpei's motion to dismiss the first cause of action is denied.
Pohnpei moves to dismiss the John Doe defendants. The motion in this regard is granted. Naming John Doe defendants is not a pleading practice recognized in the FSM. Amayo v. MJ Co., 10 FSM Intrm. 244, 254 (Pon. 2001). The John Doe defendants have been deleted from the caption. The caption on the parties’ future filings will be consistent with this order.
Pohnpei next urges that the claim for exemplary damages against Pohnpei should be dismissed. Warren is pursuing four of his claims under the national civil rights statute, 11 F.S.M.C. 701 et seq. Section 701(3) permits "the party injured" to pursue a claim for "redress," and also allows the injured party to recover reasonable attorney's fees. Warren's remaining count is for the tort of false imprisonment. Generally, tort law is an area governed by state law. Phoenix of Micronesia, Inc. v. Mauricio, 9 FSM Intrm. 155, 158 (App. 1999); Amayo, 10 FSM Intrm. at 253-54. Pohnpei cites the Pohnpei Government Liability Act, Pon. S.L. No. 2L-192-91, which provides that exemplary or punitive damages are not awardable against Pohnpei. Warren's claim for exemplary damages is dismissed. Cf. Atesom v. Kukkun, 10 FSM Intrm. 19, 24 (Chk. 2001) (holding that punitive damages are not permitted against the state of Chuuk).
[13 FSM Intrm. 156]
Pohnpei urges that Warren's case should proceed on the FSM causes of action, because his state claims are based on the same facts and are therefore duplicative. Warren's false imprisonment claim is separate and distinct from his civil rights claim. Id. at 23 (holding that a civil rights claim and a battery claim are distinct causes of action). In Atesom, the court held that plaintiff was not entitled to additional damages for the battery claim in addition to those awarded on the civil rights claim because the damages awarded to him on the civil rights claim fully compensated the plaintiff. Id. However, this holding was part of the court's findings of fact and conclusions of law made after trial in which the plaintiff prevailed on both his battery and civil rights claims. Without the benefit of trial it would be premature to dismiss either of Warren's claims, since Warren has yet to prove the necessary elements of one or both of his two distinct claims. As Warren points out, in Estate of Mori v. Chuuk, 10 FSM Intrm. 6, 14-15 (Chk. 2001), where different claims were based on the same events, the court awarded damages for denial of medical care under the civil rights cause of action, but awarded wrongful death damages on the negligence claim. At this juncture Pohnpei's contention that Warren's tort and civil rights claims are duplicative is without merit.
Finally, Pohnpei urges that Warren's state law claims should be dismissed because he is seeking a large amount of damages. No support is urged for the proposition that the amount of damages determines whether a claim is dismissed. Pohnpei's motion in this regard is denied.
To sum up, Pohnpei's motion for partial summary judgment is granted in part and denied in part. The John Doe defendants and the claim for punitive damages are dismissed with prejudice. The remainder of the motion is denied.
The parties will file their list of trial witnesses and exhibits by March 7, 2005, and will also advise the court of the expected length of the trial. Witnesses or exhibits not listed will not be used at trial. Trial will be set for the court's next available Pohnpei sitting. The parties will be notified as soon as the sitting is scheduled so that they will have the maximum amount of notice.
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