Smith v. United States, 507 U.S. 197, 12 (1993)

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Stevens, J., dissenting

As enacted in 1920, the Death on the High Seas Act (DOHSA) provided a remedy against private parties but contained no waiver of sovereign immunity.9 That changed with the enactment of the FTCA, which waived the sovereign immunity of the United States for claims arising on the high seas under the DOHSA and the general maritime law. See, e. g., United States v. Gavagan, 280 F. 2d 319, 321 (CA5 1960) (holding United States liable, under the FTCA and the DOHSA, for death resulting from negligent rescue efforts on the high seas), cert. denied, 364 U. S. 933 (1961); Blumenthal v. United States, 189 F. Supp. 439, 446-447 (ED Pa. 1960) ("In the same manner as a private person is liable under the Death on the High Seas Act, so, too, is the Government under the Federal Tort Claims Act"), aff'd, 306 F. 2d 16 (CA3 1962); Kunkel v. United States, 140 F. Supp. 591, 594 (SD Cal. 1956) (same); Moran v. United States, 102 F. Supp. 275 (Conn. 1951) (holding that the FTCA waived the sovereign immunity of the United States for claims arising from both personal injury and death on the high seas). See also McCormick v. United States, 680 F. 2d 345, 349 (CA5 1982) (citing Moran with approval); Roberts v. United States, 498 F. 2d 520, 525- 526 (CA9 1974) (noting that prior to 1960 amendments to Suits in Admiralty Act, FTCA waived sovereign immunity for claims under the general maritime law and the DOHSA).

In 1960, Congress amended the Suits in Admiralty Act so as to bring all maritime torts asserted against the United States, including those arising under the DOHSA, within the purview of the Suits in Admiralty Act and thus outside the waiver of sovereign immunity in the FTCA. See United States v. United Continental Tuna Corp., 425 U. S. 164, 176, n. 14 (1976). There can be no disputing the fact, however, that at the time it was enacted, the FTCA waiver extended to the sovereignless reaches of the high seas. Since the geographic scope of that waiver has never been amended, the

9 Pub. L. 69-165, 41 Stat. 537, codified at 46 U. S. C. App. 761 et seq.

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