Smith v. United States, 507 U.S. 197, 6 (1993)

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202

SMITH v. UNITED STATES

Opinion of the Court

liability of the United States—surely a bizarre result.3 Of

course, if it were quite clear from the balance of the statute that governmental liability was intended for torts committed in Antarctica, then the failure of 1346(b) to specify any governing law might be treated as a statutory gap that the courts could fill by decisional law. But coupled with what seems to us the most natural interpretation of the foreign-country exception, this portion of 1346(b) reinforces the conclusion that Antarctica is excluded from the coverage of the FTCA.

Section 1346(b) is not, however, the only FTCA provision that contradicts petitioner's interpretation of the foreign-country exception. The statute's venue provision, 1402(b), provides that claims under the FTCA may be brought "only in the judicial district where the plaintiff resides or wherein the act or omission complained of occurred." Because no federal judicial district encompasses Antarctica, petitioner's interpretation of the FTCA would lead to yet another anomalous result: The FTCA would establish jurisdiction for all tort claims against the United States arising in Antarctica, but no venue would exist unless the claimant happened to reside in the United States.4 As we observed in Brunette

3 Nor can the law of the plaintiff's domicil, Oregon here, be substituted in FTCA actions based on torts committed in Antarctica. "Congress has expressly stated that the Government's liability is to be determined by the application of a particular law, the law of the place where the act or omission occurred . . . ." Richards v. United States, 369 U. S. 1, 9 (1962). Petitioner does not contend that her cause of action is based on acts or omissions occurring in Oregon.

4 The history of the FTCA reveals that Congress declined to enact earlier versions of the statute that would have differentiated between foreign and United States residents. Those versions would have barred claims "arising in a foreign country in behalf of an alien." S. 2690, 76th Cong., 1st Sess., 303(12) (1939) (emphasis added); H. R. 7236, 76th Cong., 1st Sess., 303(12) (1939) (emphasis added). At the suggestion of the Attorney General, the last five words of the proposed bills were dropped. See Hearings on H. R. 5373 and H. R. 6463 before the House Committee on the Judiciary, 77th Cong., 2d Sess., 29, 35, 66 (1942). As we observed in

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