Wong v. Beebe

Summarized by:

  • Court: 9th Circuit Court of Appeals Archives
  • Area(s) of Law: Tort Law
  • Date Filed: 10-09-2013
  • Case #: 10-36136
  • Judge(s)/Court Below: En Banc; Circuit Judge Berzon for the Court; Concurrence by Chief Judge Kozinski; Dissent by Circuit Judge Tashima; Dissent by Circuit Judge Bea; Circuit Judges Pregerson, McKeown, W. Fletcher, Clifton, Bybee, M. Smith, Jr., and Murguia
  • Full Text Opinion

28 U.S.C. § 2401(b) of the Federal Tort Claims Act is not a “jurisdictional” statute and is therefore entitled to presumptions of equitable tolling.

On May 18, 2001, Kwai Fun Wong sued the United States and Immigration and Naturalization Services (“INS”) officials for claims arising from Wong’s detention conditions. The only remaining claim was under the Federal Tort Claims Act (“FTCA”) alleging negligence against the United States. Wong also filed her negligence claim with the INS on May 18, 2001. However, under 28 U.S.C. § 2401(b), Wong was required to wait six months before doing so. Thus, on November 14, 2001, Wong filed a motion to seek leave to file a second amended complaint for the negligence claim on or after November 20, 2001. The INS denied Wong’s claim on December 3, 2001. However, the magistrate judge did not issue a Findings and Recommendations permitting Wong to amend her FTCA claim until June 25, 2002, three weeks after the deadline. On August 13, 2002, Wong filed an amended complaint, but the district court, relying on Marley v. United States, held that § 2401(b) was “jurisdictional” and equitable tolling was not allowed. Wong appealed. The Ninth Circuit reversed and remanded, overruling Marley. First, the panel held that § 2401(b) is not jurisdictional and more of a “claim-processing rule” because nothing in the language of the statute conveys a clear statement that Congress intended § 2401(b) to be jurisdictional; the context and placement of § 2401(b) does not show Congress intended it to be jurisdictional; lack of exceptions by Congress cannot be read to imply Congress meant § 2401(b) to be jurisdictional; and there is no consistent line of case history treating § 2401(b) as jurisdictional. As such, § 2401(b) is entitled to presumptions in favor of equitable tolling. Second, Wong was entitled to equitable tolling because she was pursuing her rights diligently, and the delay was solely from the Magistrate Judge system. REVERSED and REMANDED.

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