Levin v. United States

The Federal Tort Claims Act waives sovereign immunity from tort suits, 28 U. S. C. 1346(b)(1), except for certain intentional torts, including battery; it originally afforded tort victims a remedy against the government, but did not preclude suit against the alleged tort-feasor. Agency-specific statutes postdating the FTCA immunized certain federal employees from personal liability for torts committed in the course of official duties. The Gonzalez Act makes the FTCA remedy against the U.S. preclusive of suit against armed forces medical personnel, 10 U. S. C. 1089(a), and provides that, “[f]or purposes of this section,” the FTCA intentional tort exception “shall not apply to any cause of action arising out of a negligent or wrongful act or omission in the performance of medical ... functions.” Congress subsequently enacted the Federal Employees Liability Reform and Tort Compensation Act, which makes the FTCA remedy against the government exclusive for torts committed by federal employees acting within the scope of their employment, 28 U. S. C. 2679(b)(1); federal employees are shielded without regard to agency or line of work. Levin, injured as a result of surgery performed at a U. S. Naval Hospital, sued the government and the surgeon, asserting battery, based on his alleged withdrawal of consent shortly before the surgery. Finding that the surgeon had acted within the scope of his employment, the district court released him and dismissed the battery claim. Affirming, the Ninth Circuit concluded that the Gonzalez Act served only to buttress the personal immunity granted military medical personnel and did not negate the FTCA intentional tort exception. The Supreme Court reversed and remanded. The Gonzalez Act section 1089(e) abrogates the FTCA intentional tort exception, allowing Levin’s suit against the U.S. alleging medical battery by a Navy doctor acting within the scope of employment. The operative clause states, “in no uncertain terms,” that the FTCA intentional tort exception “shall not apply,” and confines the abrogation to medical personnel employed by listed agencies. View "Levin v. United States" on Justia Law