Federal Tort Claims Act (FTCA) – Representing Injured Clients and their Families in Suing the United States Government

The Federal Tort Claims Act or FTCA allows non active-duty personnel (including, but not limited to retirees, spouse, children, and some active duty personnel, etc.) to sue the United States government when it is negligent directly or through its various agencies (such as the Veteran’s Administration, the Department of Health and Human Services, and the Postal Service).  Basically, the FTCA provides for a limited waiver of sovereign immunity by the U.S. government which flows from Old English common law.

History of the FTCA

The Federal Tort Claims Act was passed after a military pilot crashed a bomber, while flying in thick fog, into the side of the Empire State Building. Following the crash some families of the victims filed lawsuits against the Government, other families accepted monetary settlements. The lawsuits resulted in this landmark legislation, the Federal Tort Claims Act, being put into place in 1946. This Act for the first time allowed suits to be brought against the Government by non-active duty individuals. The bill had been pending in Congress for several decades, however the lawsuits and public outcry spurred its final passage and enactment in 1946.

FTCA Liability

Liability under the FTCA is limited to “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.” 28 U.S.C. § 1346(b). The FTCA exempts, among other things, claims based upon the performance, or failure to perform, a “discretionary function or duty.” 28 U.S.C. § 2680(a). The FTCA also exempts several intentional torts, although the United States may be liable for specific intentional torts such as assault, battery, and false imprisonment, if committed by federal law enforcement officers. 28 U.S.C. § 2680(h). Generally the right to sue under the Act has been limited to non-active duty members of the armed forces, such as civilians, military dependents, and retirees.

The Supreme Court of the United States has limited the use of the FTCA in cases involving active duty military members pursuing the Government for actions of those acting on their behalf. This is known as the Feres Doctrine. See 340 U.S. 135 (1950). Over recent years the Feres Doctrine has been eroded and the issues related to its application are complex. It is critical to note that in recent years more and more civilians are working for the Government as both employees and independent contractors. Particularly if you are in a Governmental Health Care facility you should not assume the healthcare provider is active duty. You should also not assume that because you are on active duty that you are not eligible.  IN ALL CASES, you should call our law offices to speak with a qualified lawyer to see if you have a case, as the conditions regarding eligibility require a determination to be made by a lawyer based upon the facts and circumstances.

Additionally, some or all of the Department of Health Services Community Health Care Clinics may be covered by the FTCA. The impact of this is to dramatically reduce the time you have to file a claim and a lawsuit.

We Can Help

If you or a loved one has been injured or suffered from an accident while working as an employee for the federal government you may be eligible to file a claim against the government under the Federal Tort Claims Act.  Call us – we will be happy to learn about your claim, and to discuss with you how we may be able to help you recover the damages you may be due.  The initial consultation is free, and you will not be under any obligation to use us.  If you retain our law firm, we will work vigorously on your behalf to obtain for you the full amount of compensation which you may be owed.

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