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Samuel v. Pryor

Samuel v. Pryor

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Published by: Jonathan Pinkney-Baird on Mar 23, 2012
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04/13/2015

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FSM SUPREME COURT
 
TRIAL DIVISION
 
Cite as
Samuel vs. Pryor,
 
5 FSM Intrm. 91 (Pon. 1991)
 
[5 FSM Intrm. 91]
 
YOUNER SAMUEL, Individually and 
 
as Personal Representative of the
 
Estate of SONYA SAMUEL, Deceased,
 
Plaintiff,
 
v.
 
MICKY PRYOR, D. O., POHNPEI STATE GOVERNMENT,
 
UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, andDOES 1-10, Inclusive,
 
Defendants,
 
FEDERATED STATES OF MICRONESIA,
 
 Amicus Curiae.
 
CIVIL ACTION NO. 1990-001
 
OPINION
 
Edward C. King
 
Chief Justice
 
Decided: June 28, 1991
 
APPEARANCES:
 
For the Plaintiff: Daniel J. Berman
 
RUSH, MOORE, CRAVEN, SUTTON,
 
MORRY & BEH
 
P.O. Box 1491
 
Kolonia, Pohnpei FM 96941
 
For Defendants: Traylor T. Mercer 
 
MICKI PRYOR and MOORE, CHING, BOERTZEL & LAWLOR
 
UNITED STATES OF A Professional Corporation
 
 AMERICA Suite 400, GCIC Building
 
414 West Soledad Avenue
 
 Agana, Guam 96910
 
[5 FSM Intrm. 92]
 
For Defendant: Joses R. Gallen
 
POHNPEI STATE Pohnpei State Attorney
 
 
Pohnpei State
 
Kolonia, Pohnpei FM 96941
 
For FEDERATED STATES: Harold White
 
OF MICRONESIA, Amicus Assistant Attorney General
 
Curiae Office of the Attorney General
 
Federated States of Micronesia
 
Palikir, Pohnpei FM 96941
 
* * * *
 
COURT'S
 
OPINION
 
EDWARD C. KING, Chief Justice:
 
This is a wrongful death action brought by the mother of a deceased infant,Sonya Samuel. The plaintiff, Youner Samuel, sues as an individual and asspecial representative of her daughter's estate. She alleges that her daughter'sdeath at the Pohnpei State Hospital on January 21, 1988 was caused bynegligence for which each of the defendants should be held liable.
 
Now before the Court is a motion of one of the defendants, Dr. Micki Pryor,requesting dismissal of the action against her on grounds that as a United Statesemployee providing services in Pohnpei under the Compact of Free Association
1
 between the governments of the Federated States of Micronesia and the UnitedStates, she is outside the jurisdiction of this Court as to claims for liability arisingout of those services.
 
[5 FSM Intrm. 94]
 
The Court has concluded that the Compact and its subsidiary agreement, theFederal Program and Services Agreement (the FPS agreement), do provideimmunity to Dr. Pryor for her actions as a United States Public Health Servicesphysician. Her motion to dismiss has therefore been granted. This opinion iswritten to explain the Court's reasoning.
 
I. Factual Background
 
The claim of Dr. Pryor that at all times relevant to this litigation she was actingin the course and scope of her official duties as a United States Public HealthService physician is supported by her own affidavit and that of Sheridan L.Weinstein, M.D., Regional Health Administrator of the United States PublicHealth Service. These representations are in essence supported by allegationsin the plaintiff's complaint and are conceded by the plaintiff.
 
Dr. Pryor's motion to dismiss requires the Court to interpret the Compact andthe FPS agreement to determine whether they provide the immunity from suitwhich she seeks to invoke.
 
 
No question is raised as to jurisdiction. Interpretation of national treaties ispart of the constitutional responsibility of this Court and the Court does have jurisdiction over this litigation.
 
3
 
A. The Immunity Provisions
 The Federal Programs and Services Agreement is one of several subsidiaryagreements entered into between the governments of the Federated States of Micronesia and the United States to supplement and implement the Compact of Free Association between the two nations. The FPS agreement, adoptedpursuant to article III, title 2, particularly sections 232 and 462, of the Compact of Free Association, came into effect simultaneously with the Compact. SeeCompact § 232. The agreement spells out the arrangements whereby the UnitedStates government is to provide services, including health care, within theFederated States of Micronesia.
 
There can be no serious question, and plaintiff does not dispute, that Dr.Pryor is a civilian employee of a United States federal agency within the meaningof the FPS agreement. Article II, section 7 of the agreement provides immunityfor United States civilian employees:
 
[5 FSM Intrm. 95]
 
Civilian employees shall have . . . immunity from civil and criminal process andliability relating to or resulting from any wrongful act or omission done within thescope and in the performance of official duty, except insofar as such immunity isexpressly waived by the government of the United States.
 
The term "civilian employee" is defined as meaning:
 
all Federal agency personnel, notwithstanding their citizenship or nationality,except local hire personnel, who are in the . . . Federated States of Micronesia,and who are in the employ of or serving with a Federal agency and who areemployed in any of the activities of such Federal agency.
 
FPS agreement art. I, § 2(d)
 
 A "Federal agency" is "each authority of the Government of the United Stateswhich provides services and related programs in accordance with article II of TitleTwo and Section 232 of the Compact, including any successor agency or agencies . . . ." Id. art. I, § 2(a).
 
B. The Alternative Procedures
 The Compact and the FPS agreement substitute different procedures toreplace the court claims which are thwarted by the article II, section 7 grant of immunity. Section 178(a) of the Compact says:
 
The federal agencies of the Government of the United States which provide theservices and related programs in the . . . Federated States of Micronesia

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