Lockheed Aircraft Corp v. United States
460 U.S. 190 (1983)

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U.S. Supreme Court

Lockheed Aircraft Corp v. United States, 460 U.S. 190 (1983)

Lockheed Aircraft Corp v. United States

No. 81-1181

Argued November 30, 1982

Decided February 23, 1983

460 U.S. 190

Syllabus

A civilian employee of the United States Navy died in the crash of an aircraft operated by the United States Air Force and manufactured by petitioner. The United States paid death benefits to the employee's survivors under the Federal Employees' Compensation Act (FECA). Thereafter, the employee's administrator filed suit against petitioner in Federal District Court, seeking damages for the employee's wrongful death and for injuries suffered prior to her death. Petitioner, asserting a right to indemnification under the Federal Tort Claims Act, impleaded the United States as a third-party defendant. Petitioner settled the administrator's claim and moved for summary judgment in the third-party action. The Government moved to dismiss the third-party claim on the ground that it was barred by FECA's exclusive liability provision, 5 U.S.C. § 8116(c), which prohibits actions against the United States by

"an employee, his legal representative, spouse, dependents, next of kin, [or] any other person otherwise entitled to recover damages from the United States . . . because of the [employee's] injury or death."

The District Court, concluding that § 8116(c) did not bar the indemnity claim, granted summary judgment for petitioner. The Court of Appeals reversed.

Held: Section 8116(c) does not bar petitioner's third-party indemnity action against the United States. Section 8116(c) was intended to govern only the rights of employees, their relatives, and people claiming through or on behalf of them. Weyerhaeuser S.S. Co. v. United States,372 U. S. 597. These are the only categories of parties who benefit from the "quid pro quo" compromise of FECA commonly found in workers' compensation legislation whereby employees are guaranteed the right to immediate, fixed benefits, regardless of fault and without need for litigation, but in return lose the right to sue the Government. Pp. 460 U. S. 193-199.

215 U.S.App.D.C. 27, 665 F.2d 1330, reversed and remanded.

POWELL, J., delivered the opinion of the Court, in which BRENNAN, WHITE, MARSHALL, BLACKMUN, STEVENS, and O'CONNOR, JJ., joined. REHNQUIST, J., filed a dissenting opinion, in which BURGER, C.J., joined, post, p. 460 U. S. 199.

Page 460 U. S. 191

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