The Torts Branch’s Federal Tort Claims Act Litigation Section (FTCA Section) defends the United States in a wide range of complex, and often controversial, suits filed under the Federal Tort Claims Act. Enacted on August 2, 1946, the Federal Tort Claims Act provides a limited waiver of the United States’ immunity from suit, allowing claims for damages
for injury or loss of property, or personal injury or death caused by the negligent or wrongful act or omission of any employee of the Government while acting within the scope of his office or employment, under circumstances where the United States, if a private person, would be liable to the claimant in accordance with the law of the place where the act or omission occurred
28 U.S.C. § 1346(b).
Today, litigation under the Act covers a variety of torts. Suits often arise from medical care or treatment, regulatory activities, law enforcement, and maintenance of federal lands. The FTCA Section has handled the defense in litigation related to Hurricane Katrina, which seeks billions of dollars in damages for losses caused by flooding. The FTCA Section also has handled sensitive law enforcement cases involving informants, and it has defended the United States in suits brought by individuals who were detained on immigration charges following the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks.
The Federal Tort Claims Act Litigation Section serves as the principal point of contact for both other Department of Justice (DOJ) components, such as the United States Attorneys Offices, and other federal agencies on a number of legal issues arising under the FTCA. The section assists in litigation development and settlement strategy, and it has particular expertise in the evaluation and settlement of catastrophic injury cases. The FTCA Section’s Director has authority to act on settlements by federal agencies of up to $1,000,000. For settlements in excess of that amount, the Director makes recommendations to higher-level DOJ officials. The section has prepared model settlement documents that protect the interests of the United States and is expert in the use of structured settlements.
In addition, the FTCA Section makes appeal recommendations on all adverse judgments entered in FTCA cases. It also provides comments on FTCA-related Congressional legislation that may have an impact on taxpayer liability. Further, the FTCA Section is responsible for administrative adjustment of tort claims filed as a result of DOJ employee conduct nationwide. The FTCA Section also determines the appropriate agency to adjust administrative claims that have been filed with DOJ.