Morales v. United States, No. 17-15215 (9th Cir. 2018)Annotate this Case
The Ninth Circuit affirmed the district court's dismissal based on lack of subject matter jurisdiction of an action alleging claims under the Federal Tort Claims Act (FTCA). The panel held that the USGS's decision not to mark a cable, which allegedly resulted in the crash of a helicopter, was driven by policy considerations and fell within the discretionary function exception to the FTCA. Applying Berkowitz v. United States, 486 U.S. 531 (1988), the panel held that nothing in the USGS's policy created a mandatory and specific directive to mark the Verde River cableway, and the policy left employees with a discretionary choice about which cableways were hazardous and which should be marked. Furthermore, the USGS's decision was susceptible to policy analysis grounded in social, economic and political concerns.
Court Description: Federal Tort Claims Act The panel affirmed the district court’s dismissal for lack of subject matter jurisdiction of an action under the Federal Tort Claims Act (“FTCA”) on the grounds that the United States Geological Survey (“USGS”)’s decision not to mark a cable, which allegedly resulted in the crash of a helicopter, was driven by policy considerations and fell within the discretionary function exception to the FTCA. Following the helicopter crash, the estate of pilot Raymond Perry, who was killed in the crash, and the owner of the helicopter filed this FTCA action, claiming that the USGS was negligent for failing to mark the cable. The FTCA waives the government’s sovereign immunity for tort claims arising out of negligent conduct of government employees acting within the scope of employment. One exception to the waiver of sovereign immunity, is the discretionary function exception, which