30 November 2014

Law in Plain English: United States v. June

This is one in a series of posts designed to describe court decisions in plain English. For more detail and background on the legal issues, see the link to the case below. For similar posts, click here.

SCOTUSblogUnited States v. June

Argument: Dec 10 2014 (Aud.)

Background: On February 19, 2005, Andrew Edward Booth was killed in a car accident on an interstate highway in Arizona when the vehicle in which he was traveling as a passenger crossed a cable median barrier and crashed into oncoming traffic. In 2006, Marlene June, acting as conservator for Booth’s minor son, filed a wrongful death action against a contractor and against the State of Arizona for negligently installing and maintaining the median barrier. Because of FHWA's delays in making certain employees available for deposition, June's counsel did not learn until April 2009 that the FHWA permitted the allegedly defective cable median barrier to be installed and remain in service despite never having passed the FHWA’s crashworthiness testing. On December 20, 2010, more than five years after the accident, respondent presented a claim under the Federal Tort Claims Act (FTCA) to the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA). The FTCA has a statute of limitations that “[a] tort claim against the United States shall be forever barred unless it is presented in writing to the appropriate Federal agency within two years after such claim accrues...” On March 18, 2011, the FHWA denied respondent’s claim as untimely. The district court dismissed the case as untimely filed. An en banc panel of the Ninth Circuit reversed, finding that 28 U.S.C. § 2401(b) was subject to equitable tolling. As a result, June's claim could proceed. 

Issue: The question before the Court is whether the two-year time limit for filing an administrative claim with the appropriate federal agency under the Federal Tort Claims Act, 28 U.S.C. § 2401(b), is subject to equitable tolling.

Holding: TBD
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