Articles Posted in Government Negligence

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FTCAUAccording to the United States Supreme Court, the two-year and six-month time limits in section §2401(b) of the Federal Tort Claims Act (FTCA) “are just time limits, nothing more. Even though they govern litigation against the Government, a court can toll them on equitable grounds.”

Under the FTCA, “the United States shall be liable . . . in the same manner and to the same extent as a private individual under like circumstances, but shall not be liable for interest prior to judgment or for punitive damages (28 U.S.C. §2674).”  The FTCA is a limited waiver of the United States’ immunity from tort liability and, therefore, the language of the Act is strictly construed.

Relevant to this summary update is the FTCA’s statute of limitations language which provides “a tort claim against the United States shall be forever barred unless it is presented in writing to the appropriate Federal agency within two years after such claim accrues or unless action is begun within six months after the date of mailing, by certified or registered mail, of notice of final denial of the claim by the agency to which it was presented (28 U.S.C. §2401(b)).”

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According to an internal audit conducted by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Office of the Inspector General titled “EPA’s Alternative Asbestos Control Method Experiments Lacked Effective Oversight and Threatened Human Health,” asbestos removal experiments conducted by the EPA for more than a decade threatened both human health and the environment.

The OIG report, which was released on September 25, 2014, provides that experiments conducted between 2004 and 2012 to study alternative methods to demolish building containing asbestos may have exposed workers and the public to harm. Included in the OIG report are conclusions that the EPA used its enforcement discretion to ignore violations of environmental law, and that the EPA’s research lacked appropriate oversight and research goals.

If the AACM experiments caused harm, the government may be liable for damages under the Federal Tort Claims Act (FTCA). Basic information about the FTCA can be found in a previous post titled “Suing the Government For Negligence Under the Federal Tort Claims Act.”
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In 1946, the Federal Tort Claims Act (“FCTA”) was passed. The FTCA permits citizens to file a lawsuit against the United States for negligence. Government employees can make mistakes in countless ways. Examples of government negligence include VA medical malpractice, postal vehicle collisions, and air traffic controller mistakes.

The FTCA, 28 U.S.C. 1346(b), 2401(b) and 2671-2680, constitutes a limited waiver by the United States of its sovereign immunity” and allows for a tort suit against the United States under specified circumstances. Under the FTCA, a private citizen may sue for injuries caused by “the negligent or wrongful act or omission of any employee of the Government while acting within the scope of his office or employment, under 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. Under the FTCA, sovereign immunity is waived if a claim meets six requirements (1) brought against the United States, (2) for money damages, (3) for injury to or loss of property, or personal injury, or death, (4) caused by the negligent or wrongful act or omission of any employee of the Government, (5) while acting within the scope of his or her office or employment, and (6) under 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.

The general public and many lawyers do not know that a lawsuit against the Government cannot proceed unless an administrative claim is submitted to the appropriate federal agency within two (2) years of claim “accrual.” “Accrual” is a legal term of art that should be defined by an attorney. If an agency denies the claim, or does not respond to the claim within 6 months, a lawsuit may be filed.

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