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FTCA Act Update: Supreme Court Eases Rules To Sue Federal Government For Malpractice

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The justices, voting 5-4, ruled in two cases the deadlines for filing such lawsuits can be extended if plaintiffs tried their best to comply or simply failed to learn about important information before a deadline.

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Supreme Court on Wednesday made it easier for people to sue the federal government for negligence, in a decision that could affect military veterans with claims of medical malpractice.

“One case stemmed from a fatal traffic accident on Interstate 10 in Phoenix in which a car passed through a safety barrier into oncoming traffic. The plaintiff, Marlene June, represents the child of one of two people killed in the crash.”

The justices, voting 5-4, ruled in two cases the deadlines for filing such lawsuits can be extended if plaintiffs tried their best to comply or simply failed to learn about important information before a deadline.

“June claimed that the Federal Highway Administration made her wait more than two years before she was allowed to depose officials and uncover evidence that the barrier had failed a crash test.”

Justice Elena Kagan wrote the majority opinion that combined the cases and upheld rulings by the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals that said the deadlines were somewhat flexible under the federal law that deals with lawsuits against the government.

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The Obama administration argued that Congress intended the deadlines to be firm and that the government should not leave itself open to old claims indefinitely.

“The other case involved a Hong Kong woman who sued the Immigration and Naturalization Service after she was detained in Oregon, strip-searched and deported.”

But Kagan said Congress did not clearly indicate it wanted those deadlines to be iron-clad when it passed the Federal Tort Claims Act. “The time limits in the FTCA are just time limits, nothing more,” Kagan wrote. Judges have discretion to extend the deadlines, she said. Read the rest of this entry »

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