Federal Tort Claims Act Law and Legal Definition

The Federal Tort Claims Act is a statute which removed the power of the federal government to claim immunity from a lawsuit for damages due to negligent or intentional injury by a federal employee in the scope of his/her work for the government. It also established a set of regulations and format for making claims in a federal district court. The FTCA generally applies to claims

  1. for money damages,
  2. arising from damage to property, personal injury, or death,
  3. caused by a negligent or wrongful act
  4. of a federal government employee
  5. acting within the scope of his or her employment,
  6. in circumstances where a private person would be liable under state law.

Each of these six conditions must be satisfied before the federal court will find the government liable under the FTCA. In addition, the plaintiff must file an administrative claim with the appropriate government agency in compliance with 28 USCS § 2675 before commencing an action in federal court.

Under the FTCA, the United States is liable for money damages only for loss of the claimant's property, personal injury, or death caused by the negligent or wrongful act or mission of any employee of the Government while the employee was acting within the scope of his/her office of employment.

28 U.S.C. 2680 lists all the exceptions to liability. Some of the most often cited ones are:

  • Discretionary Function. The FTCA excludes any claim arising out of the performance or nonperformance of a discretionary function or duty. Discretionary functions refer to the policy and planning functions of each Federal agency. Under the FTCA, a Federal agency cannot be sued and held liable for damages resulting from policy or planning decisions of that agency. Discretionary functions do not include policy or planning decisions that violate the norms or guidelines established by the appropriate industry or field.
  • Intentional Torts. The FTCA specifically excluded any claim arising out of assault, battery, false imprisonment, false arrest, malicious prosecution, abuse of process, libel, slander, misrepresentation, deceit, or interference with contract rights. (These exclusions do not all apply to law enforcement personnel.)
  • Misrepresentation. This includes those Federal employees whose duties and responsibilities are to inspect or grade products or provide advice and guidance to the public. If in the performance of these duties an employee was found negligent, misrepresented a product, or caused an erroneous action, the injured party could not sue the Government based on such misrepresentations.
  • Good Samaritan Doctrine. Many have recognized what is commonly referred to as the “Good Samaritan Doctrine.” This doctrine says although a person does not have the duty to perform a certain task, if that person voluntarily assumes that task and is negligent in the performance of that task, that person can be held liable for any damages incurred. The Supreme Court ruled that if State law recognized such a duty, the claimant could prove that a Federal employee voluntarily undertook the duty, did it negligently, and the claimant was damaged by the action. The claimant could then be compensated under the FTCA.
  • Interference with Contractual Relationships. This exclusion deals with the situation where a party claims a loss of some business due to some action of the Federal Government. This usually occurs when a company claims that a Federal agency did something which barred or interfered with their ability to get, keep, or not lose some business the company had with another outside party.