Simmons v. Himmelreich

Topic(s): 
Scope of Statutory Rights and Remedies
Docket Number: 
15-109
Case Description: 

The plaintiff in this case brought suit against the government under the Federal Tort Claims Act, which allows individuals to sue the government for torts committed by government employees acting within the scope of their employment. The court dismissed the case jurisdiction because an exemption to pursuing an FTCA case applied.

The plaintiff then filed a case against the government employees and alleged intentional violation of his constitutional rights. The employees, represented by the government, moved to dismiss, arguing that the new case was barred because he had first brought an FTCA action. The government relied on a provision in the FTCA that provides: “The judgment in an action under [the FTCA] shall constitute a complete bar to any action by the claimant, by reason of the same subject matter, against the employee of the government whose act or omission gave rise to the claim.” The district court dismissed the case, but the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals reversed. The government sought review in the U.S. Supreme Court.

The question before the Supreme Court is whether the FTCA’s “judgment bar” provision bars a subsequent case, where the first case was dismissed because an exception to the FTCA applied. Public Citizen, joined by the ACLU, filed an amicus brief supporting the plaintiff. In an 8-0 opinion issued in June 2016, the Court affirmed, holding that the judgment bar does not apply where the earlier suit was dismissed because the FTCA did not apply to the plaintiff’s claim because the claim fell within an FTCA exception.