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ASG asks High Court to dismiss lawsuit alleging damages from DPS search

The government has moved for the High Court to grant their motion for Summary Judgment and dismiss with prejudice a lawsuit against the government filed by Punamai Tuitele following the execution of a search warrant of Tuitele’s residence by the Department of Public Safety in August 2010. 

The plaintiff filed his claim through his lawyer Mark Ude on October 31, 2011 alleging that police officers damaged and destroyed real and personal property when the warrant was executed.

The plaintiff is also asking the government for “lost rent” given that after the police executed the search warrant on his house he was unable to rent it out, given the condition of the house.

Tuitele alleges that there was an illegal ‘taking’ by the government when DPS Officers purportedly destroyed or damaged his property in Leone. The plaintiff claims that ASG should be held liable for negligence.

Noting that it was negligent for DPS Officers to damage or destroy furniture or other private property, the negligence was a direct and proximate cause of damage and destruction within Tuitele’s house.

As a result of ASG’s negligent acts, the plaintiff was required to fly down to American Samoa to review, repair and/or replace items allegedly damaged or destroyed, and during such time he was attending to the alleged property damage, he was unable to rent out his house in the interim.

The plaintiff also alleges that upon executing the warrant, items such as furniture and other private property were damaged or destroyed.

In response to the claim Assistant Attorney General Bensy Benjamin filed a summary judgment.

The motion notes that the “takings” claim alleged by Tuitele should be dismissed.

According to the motion claiming that there was an invalid ‘taking’ by the government, Tuitele is ultimately suggesting that there was some sort of eminent domain or inverse condemnation that occurred when the warrant was executed. 

The government noted the plaintiff does not include any facts sufficient to support this cause of action and the government believes the plaintiff can prove no set of facts.

The motion notes that secondly, the negligence claim fails for several reasons. 

“The plaintiff cannot remember the damages to the property, how the said damages were repaired, or the amount of money spent to repair or replace these purported damages.

The government notes the plaintiff was unable to prove this indispensable ‘damages’ element of a valid negligence claim and consequently the negligence cause of action should fail, adding that the plaintiff cannot recover damages for the rent he claims he lost while attending to the property damage since at the time the warrant was executed, nobody was paying rent.

According to the motion all other justification to provide lost rent as compensable damages in this matter are improper and as such, this type of damage cannot be awarded to plaintiff and the negligence claim should fail. 

The government claims that when the warrant was executed the people living in plaintiffs’ house were not paying rent.

The motion states that a new tenant entered into a lease agreement in September 2011, over a year after the execution of the warrant and the new tenant did not pay rent in 2011.

The government notes that the cost of plaintiff’s flight to American Samoa is unrecoverable since it was not a proximate cause of the execution of the warrant. 

“Since causation is an indispensable element in a negligence action, this claim for relief must also fail.

According to the government, the Plaintiff simply contends that upon exercising a warrant, his property was destroyed and “constituted a taking of his property without due process of law and without compensation in violation of the Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments to the United States Constitution.”

The government goes on to say that the plaintiff provides no facts suggesting that the government converted property from a private individual or that it intends to use any of Plaintiffs’ property for public purpose. 

According to the government, the negligence claim is altogether invalid and should be dismissed. The motion also states that after a thorough analysis of all the information provided by plaintiff in this matter, the claims presented appear to be without merit and the government moved for the court to dismissed this matter.