About Federal Litigation And Defense Using Private Attorneys
Bring your questions such as the following about federal litigation defense to Foley & Wilson Law Firm. We look forward to providing personalized answers that are relevant to your case.
1. What is the Federal Tort Claims Act (FTCA)?
The tort system allows people who have been wronged to pursue compensation from those who have harmed them unjustly, while also deterring future such actions. The FTCA was passed by Congress in 1946 as a way for people who have been harmed through actions of the federal government and its employees to file lawsuits against the federal government for the torts of its employees.
2. Who can bring legal action against whom in federal lawsuits?
Individuals who allegedly suffered harm through the actions of a U.S. employee, or someone acting on behalf of a federal agency, can bring legal action against the respective government agency.
Some employees are protected from personal liability, but not all. Also, nonemployees do not have that protection. Anyone named in FTCA-related litigation should seek legal advice right away.
The Torts Division of the Civil Division, U.S. Department of Justice responds to thousands of lawsuits each year related to actions by federal agencies and their employees or others associated with federal programs, policies, laws, operations, law enforcement initiatives, military actions, and counterterrorism efforts in the U.S. and abroad.
The U.S. government can also bring lawsuits as a plaintiff against individuals or businesses that have allegedly violated regulations, failed to pay proper taxes or committed other offenses. Through such litigation, the federal government often seeks to recoup money lost through fraud, loan defaults and the abuse of federal funds.
3. What are some well-known examples of federal lawsuits under the FTCA?
Many people who claimed they were wrongfully detained on immigration charges or mistreated in detention after the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks brought litigation against the U.S. government and some of its employees.
A few years later, many people harmed by flooding that accompanied Hurricane Katrina in 2005 brought claims against the U.S. because of alleged flawed and outdated practices of the Army Corps of Engineers and some of its employees.
These cases had notoriety because of the large numbers of people involved and the high-dollar alleged damages, but smaller FTCA cases are filed regularly against various government agencies.
4. Can federal agencies and their employees be sued for violating people’s constitutional and civil rights?
In many cases, yes. Individuals can sue federal officials for violating their constitutional rights, according to the Supreme Court case known as Bivens v. Six Unknown Named Agents. However, some agencies and employees are exempt from liability.
5. What department of the federal government handles the defense of federal lawsuits?
The Federal Tort Claims Act Litigation Section (FTCA Section of The Torts Branch of the U.S. Department of Justice) defends the United States in many types of civil and criminal litigation, including lawsuits against agencies as well as their employees.
6. Do plaintiffs have to try to get relief through administrative complaints first, before filing a federal lawsuit?
If there are available administrative methods for resolving disputes, plaintiffs must first exhaust those remedies before bringing lawsuits against the U.S. government or its employees. For example, someone who has allegedly experienced workplace discrimination or retaliation must first report the offenses to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) before bringing a Title VII lawsuit in a federal court.
7. Do federal agencies defend their employees who have been sued under the FTCA?
Although those agencies may defend their targeted employees along with the agencies themselves, it is highly recommended that a targeted federal employee or official also get their own lawyer, who will have no constraints, biases or conflicts of interest.