LOGUE V. UNITED STATES, 412 U. S. 521 (1973)

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U.S. Supreme Court

Logue v. United States, 412 U.S. 521 (1973)

Logue v. United States

No. 72-656

Argued April 24, 1973

Decided June 11, 1973

412 U.S. 521


Petitioners, claiming that their son's suicide while he was confined as a federal prisoner in a county jail was proximately caused by the negligence of Government agents and employees, brought suit under the Federal Tort Claims Act, which establishes Government liability for negligent acts or omissions of an "employee of the Government," defined, inter alia, as a person officially "acting on behalf of a federal agency . . . with or without compensation." The Act excludes any contractor with the United States from the definition of federal agency. Though finding that the county had contracted with the Federal Government to house federal prisoners in its jail, the District Court held that the Government was liable on the grounds that the sheriff's employees negligently failed to maintain adequate surveillance of the decedent (who had attempted suicide while initially incarcerated), and that the Deputy United States Marshal negligently failed specifically to arrange for constant surveillance. The Court of Appeals reversed on the grounds that, under the "contractor" exclusion, the United States was not accountable for the negligence of the sheriff's employees, and those employees were not acting on behalf of a federal agency in an official capacity within the meaning of the Act.


1. The Court of Appeals correctly concluded that, contrary to petitioners' contention, the deputy marshal had no authority to control the activities of the sheriff's employees, and that the jail was a "contractor," not a "Federal agency," within the meaning of the Act; and the statutory authorization for the housing of federal prisoners in state facilities clearly contemplated that the day-to-day operation of the contractor's facilities was to be in the contractor's, not the Government's, hands. Pp. 412 U. S. 526-530.

2. Petitioners' alternative contention that, even though the sheriff's employees might not be "employees" of a federal agency, they might nonetheless be "acting on behalf of a Federal agency in an official capacity," and thus "employee[s] of the Government" within the meaning of the Act, is not consistent with the legislative purpose of the Act. Pp. 412 U. S. 530-532.

Page 412 U. S. 522

3. The Court of Appeals, not having given consideration to the question of the deputy marshal's negligence apart from other issues, should address itself to that question on remand. Pp. 412 U. S. 532-533.

459 F.2d 408 and 463 F.2d 1340, vacated and remanded.

REHNQUIST, J., delivered the opinion for a unanimous Court. STEWART and MARSHALL, JJ., filed a separate statement.

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