Edison v. United States

Plaintiffs, two prisoners housed at Taft Correction Institute, filed suit under the Federal Tort Claims Act (FTCA), 28 U.S.C. 1346, after they contracted coccidioidomycosis (cocci), alleging that the United States breached its duty to protect them from harm. Taft is the only federally-owned and contractor-operated prison in the country. The district court granted the government’s motions to dismiss for lack of subject-matter jurisdiction, Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(1), under the independent contractor exception to the FTCA. The court concluded that plaintiffs have met their burden to show that the independent contractor exception does not bar the district court’s subject matter jurisdiction under the FTCA. The government owed a duty of care to plaintiffs under California law, which generally assumes that landowners have a duty to exercise reasonable care in the ownership and management of property. In this case, the government’s duty was underscored by the special relationship that California recognizes between jailer and prisoner. The court concluded that the BOP’s duty to warn prisoners before transferring them to Taft arose outside of the scope of its contractor relationship with GEO/MTC, and therefore is not barred by the independent contractor exception. Furthermore, the BOP did not delegate all of its duties to GEO/MTC, even once prisoners arrived at Taft. Instead, it retained both the exclusive right to construct new buildings and the exclusive right to make modifications to existing buildings. The BOP also explicitly excluded its contractors from participating in the development of a cocci prevention policy. As to these claims, the independent contractor exception to the FTCA does not bar the district court’s exercise of subject matter jurisdiction. Accordingly, the court reversed and remanded. View "Edison v. United States" on Justia Law