Federal Tort Claims Act

Congress enacted the Federal Tort Claims Act (FTCA) in 1949.  The FTCA waived the doctrine of sovereign immunity and set up a statutory mechanism that permits claims against the United States for property damage, personal injury, or wrongful death caused by the negligence of employees of the United States acting within the scope of their employment.  The FTCA is codified in 28 U.S.C. §1346(b), §1402(b), §2401(b), and §§2671-2680. 

            Key points about FTCA –

·      Any non-active duty service member can file an FTCA claim, including retirees, dependents of active duty members, and civilians

·      Active duty service members are barred from filing FTCA claims based on the case of United States v. Feres, 340 U.S. 135 (1950).

·      The statute of limitations for FTCA claims is two (2) years from the date the alleged injury accrued.  In medical negligence cases, the claim accrues when the claimant discovery or in the exercise of reasonable diligence should have discovered the injury and the cause of the injury.

·      Unlike most states laws, the FTCA does not toll the statute of limitations during periods of infancy or incompetency.

·      FTCA claims must include written notice of the nature of the claim and the extent of damages that form the basis of the claim, along with a demand for money damages in a sum certain.

·      The claim should be filed with the federal agency whose employee is responsible for the alleged negligence act or omission.

·      Under the FTCA, the United States is given at least six months to investigate the claim.  No lawsuit may be filed until at least six months after the claim is filed.  Lawsuits may be filed in the United States District Court where the alleged negligent act or omission occurred or in the jurisdiction where the claimant currently resides.

·      The Court will apply the substantive law of the state or jurisdiction where the alleged negligent act or omission occurred.

·      The United States is the only named defendant in lawsuits filed under the FTCA.

·      There is no right to a jury trial – FTCA cases are tried before a federal judge.

·      The FTCA applies only to claims arising in the United States, its possessions, and territories.

·      The Military Claims Act (MCA), 10 U.S.C. §2733 et seq., applies to certain covered acts that occur outside the United States, its possessions and territories.  Unlike the FTCA, there is no right to any judicial review with MCA claims