Feres v. United States - 340 U.S. 135 (1950)


U.S. Supreme Court

Feres v. United States, 340 U.S. 135 (1950)

Feres v. United States

Argued October 12, 1950

Decided December 4, 1950*

340 U.S. 135

Syllabus

The United States is not liable under the Federal Tort Claims Act for injuries to members of the armed forces sustained while on active duty and not on furlough and resulting from the negligence of others in the armed forces. Pp. 340 U. S. 136-146.

(a) The Tort Claims Act should be construed to fit, so far as will comport with its words, into the entire statutory system of remedies against the Government to make a workable, consistent, and equitable whole. P. 340 U. S. 139.

(b) One of the purposes of the Act was to transfer from Congress to the courts the burden of examining tort claims against the Government, and Congress was not burdened with private bills on behalf of military and naval personnel, because a comprehensive system of relief had been authorized by statute for them and their dependents. Pp. 340 U. S. 139-140.

(c) The Act confers on the district courts broad jurisdiction over "civil actions on claims against the United States, for money damages," but it remains for the courts to determine whether any claim is recognizable in law. Pp. 340 U. S. 140-141.

(d) It does not create new causes of action, but merely accepts for the Government liability under circumstances that would bring private liability into existence. P. 340 U. S. 141.

(e) There is no analogous liability of a "private individual" growing out of "like circumstances" when the relationship of the wronged to the wrongdoers in these cases is considered. Pp. 340 U. S. 141-142.

(f) The provision of the Act making "the law of the place where the act or omission occurred" govern any consequent liability is inconsistent with an intention to make the Government liable in

Page 340 U. S. 136

the circumstances of these cases, since the relationship of the Government and members of its armed forces is "distinctively federal in character." Pp. 340 U. S. 142-144.

(g) The failure of the Act to provide for any adjustment between the remedy provided therein and other established systems of compensation for injuries or death of those in the armed services is persuasive that the Tort Claims Act was not intended to be applicable in the circumstances of these cases. Pp. 340 U. S. 144-145.

(h) Brooks v. United States, 337 U. S. 49, distinguished. P. 340 U. S. 146.

177 F.2d 535 and 178 F.2d 518 affirmed; 18 F.2d 1 reversed.

The cases are stated in the opinion. The orders granting certiorari in Nos. 9 and 29 are reported at 339 U.S. 910, and in No. 31 at 339 U.S. 951. The decisions below in Nos. 9 and 29 are affirmed, and that in No. 31 is reversed, p. 340 U. S. 146.



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