Learn about one surprising exemption to the Federal Tort Claims Act

When Federal Employees Cause Accidents

For many years, the federal government was immune to liability for accidents, including accidents caused by federal employees acting in the scope of their employment. However, in 1946 the passage of the Federal Tort Claims Act made the United States government liable for accidents “in the same manner and to the same extent as a private individual under like circumstances.” This made it possible for citizens to pursue certain tort claims against the federal government.

When a Citizen Can Sue

A tort is a wrongful act leading to legal liability. Some examples of torts that would likely lead to a successful tort case against the federal government include:

  • A pedestrian getting hit by a USPS delivery vehicle
  • A slip and fall accident in a federal building
  • A prisoner being abused by a guard in federal prison (this would be an intentional tort)

Of course, in order to secure compensation, the plaintiff still needs to prove that the federal government or a federal employee acting in the scope of their employment did indeed cause their injury. Additionally, when the case involves an accident rather than an intentional tort, the plaintiff needs to further prove that the government or their employee acted negligently.

When a Citizen Can’t Sue

There are many quirks to the Federal Tort Claims Act, including some exemptions. One such exemption recently played a pivotal role in a wrongful death case.

The claim was brought by the family of Andreina Tortolero, a woman who was killed by Mexican drug dealers in an FBI drug sting gone bad. According to the plaintiffs, Tortolero had agreed to help the FBI as part of a deal to get her husband released from jail. The deal required her to deliver 10 kilograms of methamphetamine to members of a Mexican drug cartel. The arrangements were made, but then the FBI failed to provide Tortolero with the drugs. The men she was supposed to give the drugs to then strangled her to death.

At first, it might seem reasonable that the federal government should be held liable for the death and required to pay wrongful death damages to Tortolero’s family. After all, it was the FBI’s errors that resulted in her death. However, there is a provision in the Federal Tort Claims Act that exempts the government from liability for accidents that take place on foreign soil. Based on this information, the US District Judge on the case threw out the family’s lawsuit.

Need to Sue the Government?

If you have been injured and you believe either the city, the state, or the federal government is liable, it may be possible to sue. However, special rules and procedures must be followed. To learn more, contact us at 800-333-0000 for a free consultation.