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Millbrook v. United States

Summarized by: 

Date Filed: March 27, 2013
Case #: 11-10362
THOMAS, J., delivered the opinion for a unanimous Court.
Full Text Opinion: http://www.supremecourt.gov/opinions/12pdf/11-10362_2d9g.pdf

Tort Law: Under the Federal Tort Claims Act (FTCA) the law enforcement proviso in 28 U.S.C. §2680(h) for intentional torts extends to officers’ acts or omissions arising within the scope of their duty and is not limited to conduct during an arrest, search, or seizure.

Petitioner alleges that correctional officers sexually assaulted and threatened him while in custody. Under the Federal Tort Claims Act (FTCA) the United States waives sovereign immunity for intentional torts committed by law enforcement officers. The US District Court granted the government’s motion for summary judgment because Respondent’s claim was not cognizable under 28 U.S.C. §2680(h) as the alleged incident did not occur during an arrest, search, or seizure. The Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit affirmed.

The Supreme Court unanimously reversed and remanded holding that the law enforcement proviso extends to officers’ acts or omissions arising within the scope of their duty, regardless if it was during an arrest, search or seizure. The plain reading of the statute focuses on the status of the tortfeasor and not the types of activities giving rise to the tort claim. The Court rejected the argument that reference to “investigative or law-enforcement officer” is an implicit limitation of the proviso because had Congress intended to limit the scope they would have expressly stated it within the statute.