Smith v. United States, 507 U.S. 197, 3 (1993)

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Cite as: 507 U. S. 197 (1993)

Opinion of the Court

tate. At the time of his death, Smith worked as a carpenter at McMurdo Station on Ross Island, Antarctica, for a construction company under contract to the National Science Foundation, an agency of the United States. Smith and two companions one day took a recreational hike to Castle Rock, located several miles outside of McMurdo Station. On their return, they departed from the marked route to walk across a snow field in the direction of Scott Base, a New Zealand outpost not far from McMurdo Station. After stopping for a snack, one of the three men took a step and suddenly dropped from sight. Smith followed, and he, too, disappeared. Both men had fallen into a crevasse. Despite search and rescue efforts, Smith died from exposure and internal injuries suffered as a result of the fall.

Petitioner filed this wrongful-death action against the United States under the FTCA in the District Court for the District of Oregon, the district where she resides. Petitioner alleged that the United States was negligent in failing to provide adequate warning of the dangers posed by crevasses in areas beyond the marked paths. It is undisputed that petitioner's claim is based exclusively on acts or omissions occurring in Antarctica. Upon the motion of the United States, the District Court dismissed petitioner's complaint for lack of subject-matter jurisdiction, 702 F. Supp. 1480 (1989), holding that her claim was barred by 28 U. S. C. 2680(k), the foreign-country exception. Section 2680(k) precludes the exercise of jurisdiction over "[a]ny claim arising in a foreign country."

The Court of Appeals affirmed, 953 F. 2d 1116 (CA9 1991). It noted that the term "foreign country" admits of multiple interpretations, and thus looked to the language and structure of the FTCA as a whole to determine whether Antarctica is a "foreign country" within the meaning of the statute. Adopting the analysis and conclusion of then-Judge Scalia, see Beattie v. United States, 244 U. S. App. D. C. 70, 85-109, 756 F. 2d 91, 106-130 (1984) (Scalia, J., dissenting), the Court


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