Supreme Court Clears Path for More Tort Lawsuits Against the Federal Government

Austin Personal Injury Attorney Discusses Federal Lawsuits

The Supreme Court ruled 5-4 last month to allow judges to extend the deadline for liability lawsuits against the government. This landmark case will affect how many lawsuits the federal government will have to deal with each year, but for many victims of government negligence, the ruling is long overdue. In essence, the Supreme Court’s ruling will make it easier for private citizens to sue the federal government even if confusion over the law or stumbling blocks to filing suit stand in the way of making the deadline.

Military veterans in particular will be affected by this new ruling. Veterans groups were pleased with the ruling, saying that if a strict interpretation of deadlines continued, it would hurt veterans with legitimate claims against the government. According to the Paralyzed Veterans of America, veterans often unknowingly miss the deadline for filing a claim because of the confusing process facilitated by the Department of Veterans Affairs.

The case that led to the Supreme Court’s decision made it to the court after the Obama administration challenged a ruling by the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in favor of a woman whose mother was killed in an accident on Interstate 10 in Phoenix. Justice Kagan, who wrote the majority opinion in the case, explained that deadlines were never meant to be set in stone and that allowances must be made in cases where plaintiffs made sincere efforts to file a case and were blocked for one reason or another. When Congress passed the Federal Tort Claims Act, she said, the time limits were always up to the discretion of the judge in any particular case.

The dissenting opinion, written by Justice Alito, argued that precedent had shown that the time limits were absolute bars to filing claims after set deadlines. Ultimately, the court ruled in favor of allowing deadline extensions in a case by case basis.

The Federal Tort Claims Act

Other than the time limits established by the Federal Tort Claims Act, there are several other important limitations on filing suit against the government. Although there are far too many to list, a few of the most significant ones include:

  • The government cannot be sued over the actions of independent contractors. Only actions by employees of the government are eligible for a claim.
  • The negligent action taken by a government employee must have fallen within the realm of their employment by the government.
  • Usually claims of intentional wrongdoing are not permitted under the FTCA, only claims of negligence. Some exceptions are made for law enforcement.

If you were injured or harmed because of a government employee or entity, you have the right to pursue a tort claim against the federal government. To learn more about your legal options, contact our Austin injury attorney at (512) 474-8346.