United States District Court, S.D. West Virginia, Huntington Division
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
before the Court are Defendant's Motion to Dismiss
Plaintiff's Claims for Pre-judgment Interest and
Attorney's Fees, ECF No. 11, and Motion to Dismiss
Plaintiff's Demand for a Jury Trial, ECF No. 9. Plaintiff
brought a tort action against the United States pursuant to
the Federal Tort Claims Act (“FTCA”). The FTCA
waives sovereign immunity, permitting citizens to sue the
United States Government as a tortfeasor. The FTCA is a
limited waiver of sovereign immunity and does not permit
awards of pre-judgment interest nor attorney's fees. The
FTCA similarly does not permit trial by jury. For the reasons
further set forth in this Memorandum Opinion and Order,
Defendant's motions are GRANTED.
Lori Goodman brought a medical malpractice claim against the
United States pursuant to the FTCA for injuries sustained
after a procedure performed at a federally assisted health
care facility. Compl. ECF No. 1. Goodman requests awards of
pre-judgment interest and attorney's fees and demands a
jury trial. Compl. ¶ 23. The United States now moves
this Court to dismiss Plaintiffs demand for a jury trial and
her claims for pre-judgment interest and attorney's fees.
Goodman did not respond to Defendant's motions.
sovereign, the United States, in the absence of its consent
is immune from suit.” Library of Congress v.
Shaw, 478 U.S. 310, 315-16 (1986). Where the United
States has waived immunity, the waiver is construed strictly
and in favor of immunity. See United States v. Nordic
Village, Inc., 503 U.S. 30, 33 (1992). The FTCA waives
sovereign immunity of the United States for tort liability,
but the waiver is not wholesale. See 28 U.S.C.
§ 2674. The FTCA declares: “[t]he United States
shall be liable . . . in the same manner and to the same
extent as a private individual under like circumstances, but
shall not be liable for interest prior to judgment .
. . .” Id. (emphasis added). The Supreme Court
noted that unless an award of interest “was
affirmatively and separately contemplated by Congress,
” the United States is not liable to pay interest on
tort claims against it. Shaw, 478 U.S. at 315. Here,
Congress has expressly forbade an award of pre-judgment
interest for suits brought pursuant to the FTCA.
the case for awards of interest, so it is for attorney's
fees. The FTCA makes no provision for an award of
attorney's fees. The FTCA does not affirmatively bar them
either. Nonetheless, the United States has not waived its
immunity to an award of attorney's fees related to a tort
action brought against it. This so because the status quo,
which the FTCA augmented, was immunity from suit for the
United States. See 28 U.S.C. § 2674. The FTCA
waived immunity from tort liability, but as the Supreme Court
has explained waivers of sovereign immunity are to be
strictly construed and in favor of immunity. See Nordic
Village, 503 U.S. at 33. Put differently, where Congress
has not expressly waived immunity, the sovereign immunity of
the United States remains intact, and Congress has not waived
sovereign immunity for attorney's fees and expenses under
the FTCA. See Gaddis v. United States, 381 F.3d 444,
464 (5th Cir. 2004); Anderson v. United States, 127
F.3d 1190, 1191-92 (9th Cir. 1997) (“Congress has not
waived the government's sovereign immunity for
attorney's fees and expenses under the FTCA.”);
Bergman v. United States, 844 F.2d 353, 354
(6th Cir. 1988) (“It is clear that the FTCA does not
waive the United States' immunity from attorney's
fees.”); Joe v. United States, 772 F.2d 1535,
1537 (11th Cir. 1985) (per curiam) (“The FTCA does not
contain the express waiver of sovereign immunity necessary to
permit a court to award attorney's fees against the
United States directly under [the FTCA].”).
Goodman is not entitled to a jury trial for her tort claims
against the United States. 28 U.S.C. § 2402 expressly
bars jury trials for tort actions brought against the United
States. On this topic the Supreme Court observed:
“[w]hen Congress has waived the sovereign immunity of
the United States, it has almost always conditioned that
waiver upon a plaintiffs relinquishing any claim to a jury
trial. In tort actions against the United States Congress . .
. provided that trials shall be to the court without a
jury.” Lehman v. Nakshian, 453 U.S. 156, 161
(1981) (citing 28 U.S.C. § 1346(b) (granting district
courts jurisdiction over tort claims against the United
States)); 28 U.S.C. § 2402). Goodman's demand for a
jury trial, therefore, must be dismissed.
foregoing reasons Defendant's Motion to Dismiss
Plaintiffs Claims for Prejudgment Interest and Attorney's
Fees, ECF No. 11, and Motion to Dismiss Plaintiffs Demand for
a Jury Trial, ECF No. 9, are GRANTED. Plaintiffs claims for
pre-judgment interest and attorney's fees and Plaintiffs
demand for a jury trial are DISMISSED.
Court DIRECTS the Clerk to send a copy of this Opinion and
Order to counsel of ...