Willis v. United States, No. 20-2047 (8th Cir. 2021)Annotate this Case
During a search of plaintiff's home, police seized a large number of coins and gave them to the IRS where an IRS agent deposited the coins at their face value into an IRS account and later remitted the amount to plaintiff. Plaintiff filed suit under the Federal Tort Claims Act (FTCA) for conversion, contending that the coins were collectors' items. The district court agreed with plaintiff and awarded her $94,880.
The Eighth Circuit reversed and concluded that the district court erred when it concluded that the FTCA had waived the government's sovereign immunity to suit in the current circumstances. The court concluded that the agent's decision to deposit the coins for processing rather than preserve them was a discretionary decision and the agent was not required to first investigate whether the coins had collectors' value. Furthermore, the agent's choice to treat the coins as ordinary currency was based on relevant policy considerations. Therefore, the discretionary function exception applies and the government has not waived its sovereign immunity.