Question: The Federal Tort Claims Act FTCA waives the federal government s
The Federal Tort Claims Act (FTCA) waives the federal government's sovereign immunity concerning claims arising out of torts committed by federal employees. This waiver of sovereign immunity allows tort claims based on wrongful actions by federal employees, except when an exception to the waiver applies (in which event a tort claim cannot be brought or pursued against the government). One of the exceptions to the sovereign immunity waiver is set forth in FTCA §2680(b). This exception is for "loss, miscarriage, or negligent transmission of letters or postal matter." Barbara Dolan was injured when she tripped and fell over packages and letters that a U.S. Postal Service (USPS) mail carrier left on the porch of her home. Dolan sued the USPS under the FTCA on the theory that the USPS mail carrier had been negligent- in other words, had failed to use reasonable care-in leaving the items of mail on the porch. The USPS argued that the case should be dismissed because it fell within §2680(b)'s reference to claims arising out of "negligent transmission of letters or postal matter." Agreeing with this argument, the district court dismissed the case. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit affirmed. Dolan appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court, arguing that the lower courts had erroneously interpreted §2680(b). Were the lower courts correct in their interpretation of § 2680(b)? Was Dolan's claim barred by the "negligent transmission of letters or postal matter" language?
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