Smith v. United States, 507 U.S. 197, 7 (1993)

Page:   Index   Previous  1  2  3  4  5  6  7  8  9  10  11  12  13  14  15  Next

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

Opinion of the Court

Machine Works, Ltd. v. Kockum Industries, Inc., 406 U. S. 706, 710, n. 8 (1972), "Congress does not in general intend to create venue gaps, which take away with one hand what Congress has given by way of jurisdictional grant with the other." Thus, in construing the FTCA, it is "reasonable to prefer the construction that avoids leaving such a gap," ibid., especially when that construction comports with the usual meaning of a disputed term.

Our decisions interpreting the FTCA contain varying statements as to how it should be construed. See, e. g., United States v. Yellow Cab Co., 340 U. S. 543, 547 (1951); Dalehite v. United States, 346 U. S. 15, 31 (1953); United States v. Orleans, 425 U. S. 807, 813 (1976); Kosak v. United States, 465 U. S. 848, 853, n. 9 (1984). See also United States v. Nordic Village, Inc., 503 U. S. 30, 34 (1992). A recent statement of this sort, and the one to which we now adhere, is found in United States v. Kubrick, 444 U. S. 111, 117-118 (1979) (citations omitted): "We should also have in mind that the Act waives the immunity of the United States and that . . . we should not take it upon ourselves to extend the waiver beyond that which Congress intended. Neither, however, should we assume the authority to narrow the waiver that Congress intended." Reading the foreign-country exception to the FTCA to exclude torts committed in Antarctica accords with this canon of construction.

Lastly, the presumption against extraterritorial application of United States statutes requires that any lingering doubt regarding the reach of the FTCA be resolved against

United States v. Spelar, 338 U. S. 217, 220 (1949), "[t]he superseded draft had made the waiver of the Government's traditional immunity turn upon the fortuitous circumstance of the injured party's citizenship." The amended version, however, "identified the coverage of the Act with the scope of United States sovereignty." Id., at 220-221. At least insofar as Antarctica is concerned, petitioner's interpretation of the FTCA would effectively resurrect the scheme rejected by Congress; it would deny relief to foreign residents in circumstances where United States residents could recover.


Page:   Index   Previous  1  2  3  4  5  6  7  8  9  10  11  12  13  14  15  Next

Last modified: October 4, 2007