Adams v. United States

Summarized by:

  • Court: 9th Circuit Court of Appeals Archives
  • Area(s) of Law: Civil Law
  • Date Filed: 09-08-2011
  • Case #: 10-35458; 10-35592; 10-35611
  • Judge(s)/Court Below: Circuit Judge Paez for the Court; Circuit Judges B. Fletcher and Ikuta
  • Full Text Opinion

Under the Federal Tort Claims Act, a plaintiff has six months to file a lawsuit after receiving a denial letter via certified or registered mail. Failure to comply with this filing requirement forever bars the claim from federal court.

The federal Bureau of Land Management (“BLM”) sprayed 70,000 acres of federal land in Idaho with Oust (an herbicide) to fight off wildfires. 134 farmers filed suit under the Federal Tort Claims Act (“FTCA”) against the BLM and the manufacturer of the Oust (“DuPont”) for damages the Oust caused to their crops and farmland, which neighbored the federally owned land that was sprayed. The district court awarded judgment for the farmers and the government and DuPont appealed claiming that jurisdiction was lacking. Initially, the Department of Interior (“DOI”) denied the farmers’ administrative FTCA claim in a letter dated on August 5, 2002. The DOI sent this letter via certified mail, a requirement of the FTCA, and the farmers filed their lawsuit in federal court on February 6, 2003, six months and one day after they received their administrative denial letters. The FTCA gives plaintiffs six months after a denial letter is mailed to them by certified or registered mail to file a lawsuit in federal court; otherwise their claim is forever barred in federal court. The Ninth Circuit found the district court decision to be in error because BLM sent the denial letters by certified mail and the farmers filed their lawsuit one day later than the FTCA act allows, and thus the district court lacked subject matter jurisdiction to hear the claim. DISMISSED.

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