Childs v. San Diego Family Housing LLC, No. 20-56049 (9th Cir. 2022)Annotate this Case
Childs leased military family housing at Naval Amphibious Base Coronado, which was owned by SDFH, a public-private venture created by statute, in which the U.S. Navy is a minority LLC member. Lincoln managed the property. Childs reported water and mold problems to SDFH and Lincoln. The problems were not resolved. SDFH and Lincoln moved to dismiss Childs's subsequent lawsuit for lack of subject-matter jurisdiction, arguing they were government contractors acting at the direction of the federal government, and therefore had derivative sovereign immunity. The district court denied their motion.
The Ninth Circuit dismissed an appeal for lack of appellate jurisdiction. The district court’s order was not immediately appealable under the collateral order doctrine, under which an order that does not terminate the litigation is nonetheless treated as final if it conclusively determines the disputed question, resolves an important issue completely separate from the merits of the action, and is effectively unreviewable on appeal from a final judgment. While the first two prongs were satisfied, the denial of derivative sovereign immunity was not effectively unreviewable on appeal from a final judgment because denying an immediate appeal would not imperil a substantial public interest. The public interest underlying derivative sovereign immunity is extending the federal government’s immunity from liability, in narrow circumstances, to government agents carrying out the federal government’s directions. That interest could be vindicated after trial.