Court Issues Important Decision for Maryland Accident Victims with Claims Against the Federal Government

Although the concept of sovereign immunity is not mentioned anywhere in the U.S. Constitution or the Bill of Rights, courts have long held that the U.S. government is immune from liability without its consent. Under the Federal Tort Claims Act (FTCA), however, those who have been injured as a result of the conduct of a federal employee or agency may be able to pursue a claim for compensation.

The FTCA provides a strict set of procedural rules that must be followed in order for a case to be heard by a federal court. If an injury victim misses a deadline or otherwise fails to comply with one of the FTCA’s requirements, their claim will likely be dismissed. Thus, it is crucial for Maryland injury victims bringing claims under the FTCA to understand all of the requirements the FTCA imposes. A recent federal appellate opinion discusses the statute of limitations in FTCA claims.

The Facts of the Case

According to the court’s written opinion, in 2005, when the plaintiff was just five years old, when his father died in an auto accident. The accident occurred on an interstate highway. Because the plaintiff was only five years old at the time, the plaintiff’s mother filed a claim against the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA). The claim alleged that a highway barrier failed during the accident, resulting in the plaintiff’s father’s death.

As required by the FTCA, the plaintiff’s mother filed a timely administrative report. However, the plaintiff’s mother did not file a claim in federal district court until 2011. The statute of limitations for FTCA claims is two years. When the plaintiff turned 18, he was substituted in place of his mother as plaintiff.

The FHWA claimed that the plaintiff’s claim should be dismissed because the statute of limitations for a claim under the FTCA is two years, and the plaintiff’s claim was not filed until six years after the accident. In response, the plaintiff argued that, because courts have previously allowed “equitable tolling” under the FTCA, the statute of limitations for his claim should have tolled while he was a minor.

The court acknowledged that recent Supreme Court case law allowed for equitable tolling in FTCA claims. However, the court clarified that nowhere in that opinion did the court state that minority tolling was appropriate. Thus, the court held that, while a minor’s claim under the FTCA may be tolled during a period of minority, minority-status alone is not sufficient to toll the statute of limitations. Because the court found there was no other basis to toll the statute of limitations, the court dismissed the plaintiff’s claim as untimely.

Have You Been Injured in a Maryland Accident?

If you or someone you love has recently been injured in a Maryland car accident that was caused in part by a government employee, you should take immediate action to ensure that your rights are preserved. At the Maryland personal injury law firm of Lebowitz & Mzhen, LLC, we proudly represent injury victims in cases brought against government employees and entities, and have been doing so for the past two decades. To learn more about how we can help you pursue claim for compensation, call 410-654-3600 to schedule a free consultation today.

More Blog Posts:

Maryland Appellate Court Rejects Defendant’s Appeal Based on Allegedly Misleading Jury Instruction, Maryland Accident Law Blog, February 4, 2019.

Contributory Negligence in Maryland Premises Liability Cases, Maryland Accident Law Blog, February 18, 2019.

Contact Information