United States v. Kwai Fun Wong

Summarized by:

  • Court: United States Supreme Court
  • Area(s) of Law: Tort Law
  • Date Filed: April 22, 2015
  • Case #: 13-1074
  • Judge(s)/Court Below: Kagan, JJ., delivered the Court’s opinion, which Ginsberg, Breyer, Sotomayor, and Kennedy joined. Alito, J., filed a dissenting opinion which Roberts, C.J. , Scalia, J., and Thomas, J. joined.
  • Full Text Opinion

The Federal Tort Claim Act is not jurisdictional and is subject to equitable tolling.

Respondents in two cases sued the federal government under the Federal Tort Claims Act (FTCA). Respondent in the first case claimed Immigration and Naturalization Services (INS) falsely imprisoned her for five days. After Respondent lost her administrative appeal, the FTCA allows six months to bring a claim in federal court. The FTCA claim was added to Respondent’s non-FTCA case more than six months after the deadline. The district court dismissed Respondent’s claim asserting the FTCA did not allow for tolling while the court made the decision to amend, even though the motion was timely filed. The Ninth Circuit reversed the district court’s decision and allowed for tolling because Respondent had “exercised due diligence.”

The second Respondent amended a state action to include the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) more than five years after an automobile accident that killed Respondent’s father. Respondent argues the FHWA failed to disclose information needed to file the case. The district court dismissed the claim asserting the FTCA deadline is jurisdictional and not subject to equitable tolling. The Ninth Circuit reversed and allowed tolling.

The Court affirmed the decisions of the Ninth Circuit and held that the FTCA is not jurisdictional and subject to equitable tolling. Absent evidence from Congress, tolling restrictions are not considered jurisdictional. The words “shall forever be barred” are not evidence of legislative intent to prohibit tolling. Time limits apply to the Government in the same way they apply to actions between private parties.

Advanced Search