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Levin v. United States

Summarized by: 

Date Filed: March 4, 2013
Case #: 11-1351
Ginsburg, J., delivered the opinion of the Court, which was unanimous except insofar as Scalia, J., did not join footnotes 6 and 7.
Full Text Opinion: http://www.supremecourt.gov/opinions/12pdf/11-1351_aplc.pdf

Tort Law: The Gonzalez Act abrogates the Federal Tort Claim Act's sovereign immunity exception for intentional tort claims against medical doctors, therefore intentional tort claims against armed forces medical personnel acting within the scope of their employment are permissible.

After consultation with a military doctor, Petitioner gave informed consent to receive cataract surgery from the Ophthalmology Department of the United States Naval Hospital on Guam. Petitioner was unsuccessful in his attempt to withdraw consent prior to surgery and suffered complications.

Petitioner sued the United States and the doctor who performed the surgery for medical malpractice and battery. The United States claimed that the Federal Tort Claims Act (FTCA) expressly preserves sovereign immunity against battery claims under its intentional tort exception (28 U.S.C. §2680(h)). The district court agreed and dismissed the case. The Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit affirmed.

The Supreme Court held that because the Gonzalez Act 28 U.S.C. §1089, contains a provision negating the FTCA's intentional tort exception for actions "arising out of a negligent or wrongful act or omission in the performance of medical, dental, or related health care functions” that the military doctor's sovereign immunity against intentional tort claims was negated and that Petitioner's tort claim should proceed.