HATAHLEY V. UNITED STATES, 351 U. S. 173 (1956)

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U.S. Supreme Court

Hatahley v. United States, 351 U.S. 173 (1956)

Hatahley v. United States

No. 231

Argued March 26-27, 1956

Decided May 7, 1956

351 U.S. 173


Petitioners, Navajo Indians living in southeastern Utah, sued under the Federal Tort Claims Act to recover for the confiscation and destruction by federal agents of their horses, which were grazing on public lands of the United States. The Government defended on the ground that the federal agents were acting pursuant to the Utah abandoned horse statute. The trial court awarded petitioners jointly a lump-sum judgment for $100,000 and enjoined the Government and its agents from further interference with petitioners.

Held: on the record in this case, petitioners are entitled to a judgment for damages, which must be apportioned among them; but they are not entitled to an injunction. Pp. 351 U. S. 174-182.

(a) The trial was not conducted so improperly as to vitiate the trial court's findings of fact. P. 177, note 3

(b) Under the Taylor Grazing Act and the Federal Range Code issued thereunder, government agents may invoke local impoundment laws only after complying with § 161.11(a) and (b) of the Federal Range Code. Since the federal agents did not give petitioners the written notice required by the Federal Range Code, there was not such compliance here, and they acted without statutory authorization. Pp. 351 U. S. 177-180.

(c) In attempting to enforce a federal statute which they administer, the federal agents were acting within the scope of their employment, and the Government is liable under the Federal Tort Claims Act for their wrongful and tortious acts. Pp. 351 U. S. 180-181.

(d) The exceptions set forth in 28 U.S.C. § 2680 do not bar recovery, because the federal agents were not "exercising due care" and were not performing a "discretionary function or duty" within the meaning of that Section. P. 351 U. S. 181.

(e) Under the Federal Tort Claims Act, any findings of damages must be made with sufficient particularity so that they may be reviewed. The findings in this case and the award of damages in a lump sum to petitioners jointly did not meet this requirement, and the case must be remanded to the District Court for appropriate findings in this regard. P. 351 U. S. 182.

Page 351 U. S. 174

(f) The District Court had no power to enjoin the United States or its individual agents over whom that Court never acquired personal jurisdiction. P. 351 U. S. 182.

220 F.2d 666 reversed and remanded.

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