Berrien v. United States, No. 12-1365 (6th Cir. 2013)Annotate this Case
Berrien worked for a civilian contractor (TECOM) at a military base in Michigan. He was fatally injured by a gutter that fell from the liquor store on the base while he was working alone, behind the store. The district court awarded $1.18 million in damages for failure to warn, under the Federal Tort Claims Act, 28 U.S.C. 1346(b)(1). The Sixth Circuit reversed. Because the Act does not waive the immunity of the United States for acts of independent contractors, liability could only be based on the negligence of government employees. There was no evidence that government employees actually knew of the dangerous condition of the liquor store, so that, under applicable Michigan law, any liability for failure to warn an invitee of a dangerous condition would have to have been based on a negligent failure to discover the dangerous condition. Even though the United States retained the right to conduct spot checks under its contract with TECOM, this right does not subject it to FTCA liability.