Smith v. United States, 507 U.S. 197, 4 (1993)

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Opinion of the Court

of Appeals ruled that the FTCA does not apply to claims arising in Antarctica. To hold otherwise, the Court of Appeals stated, would render two other provisions of the FTCA, 28 U. S. C. 1402(b), 1346(b), nonsensical. The Court of Appeals held, in the alternative, that petitioner's suit would be barred even if Antarctica were not a "foreign country" for purposes of the FTCA. Because the FTCA was a limited relinquishment of the common-law immunity of the United States, the Court of Appeals concluded that the absence of any clear congressional intent to subject the United States to liability for claims arising in Antarctica precluded petitioner's suit. We granted certiorari to resolve a conflict between two Courts of Appeals,2 504 U. S. 984 (1992), and now affirm.

Petitioner argues that the scope of the foreign-country exception turns on whether the United States has recognized the legitimacy of another nation's sovereign claim over the foreign land. Otherwise, she contends, the land is not a "country" for purposes of the FTCA. Petitioner points out that the United States does not recognize the validity of other nations' claims to portions of Antarctica. She asserts, moreover, that this construction of the term "foreign country" is most consistent with the purpose underlying the foreign-country exception. According to petitioner, Congress enacted the foreign-country exception in order to insulate the United States from tort liability imposed pursuant to foreign law. Because Antarctica has no law of its own, petitioner claims that conventional choice-of-law rules control and require the application of Oregon law, the law of her domicil. Thus, petitioner concludes, the rationale for the foreign-country exception would not be compromised by the exercise of jurisdiction here, since the United States

2 Cf. Beattie v. United States, 244 U. S. App. D. C. 70, 756 F. 2d 91 (1984) (holding that Antarctica is not a "foreign country" within the meaning of the FTCA).

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