Federal Tort Claims Act
The Federal Tort Claims Act (FTCA) is the exclusive remedy for tort claims brought against the U.S. government due to the alleged negligence of a federal employee. It is the primary vehicle for suing the federal government for money damages due to injuries.
While not specifically an aviation statute, the government is involved in many aspects of aviation, one example being air traffic control, so this act is commonly referred to in aviation law. On behalf of our clients and their families, Kreindler has prosecuted many claims against the U.S. government - specifically related to issues involving the FAA and air traffic control lapses.
The law stipulates, in part, that the U.S. government shall be liable “in the same manner and to the same extent as a private individual under like circumstances.” In essence, the government waives its liability under the Federal Tort Claims Act.
Federal Tort Claims Act also states that U.S. tort liability is determined “in accordance with the law of the place where the act or omission occurred.” That means state law, in particular state damages law, applies to any case brought under the FTCA.
There are a few provisions in the FTCA that govern any claims brought against the U.S.:
- A notice of claim must be served six months prior to the suit being filed.
- There is a statute of limitation of 2 years.
- The case is only going to be heard by a federal judge without a jury.
- There are no punitive damages or prejudgment interest.
There are also three key exemptions to the Federal Tort Claims Act that bar claims against the federal government:
- If death or injury occurred in a foreign country.
- Combatant activities during times of war.
- If death or injury was the result of a discretionary function.
It is important to note that this statute only applies to claims directly involving the U.S. government. The Federal Tort Claims Act does not protect private contractors working for the United States.
A fundamental difference between an FTCA case and a private tort case is the inclusion of Discretionary Function Immunity. Discretionary Function Immunity was created to protect government policy and discretionary decision-making from being challenged through tort litigation.