Federal Tort Claims Act (FTCA)

Judge Kennelly Vacates Steven Manning’s $6.5 Million Judgment Against FBI Agents Gary Miller And Robert BuchanIn a 15-page Memorandum Opinion And Order dated December 26, 2006, District Court Judge Matthew F. Kennelly granted the motion of FBI defendants Gary Miller and Robert Buchan and vacated the $6.5 million judgment that plaintiff Steven Manning had received. Manning had sued the two FBI agents for violating his constitutional rights and had also sued the United States under the Federal Tort Claims Act (FTCA) for common law torts. The claims were tried together. The claims against the FBI agents were tried to a jury and the FTCA claim was tried to the court. The jury found in Manning’s favor and awarded him $6.5 million in damages. The court took the FTCA claim under advisement and subsequently ruled in favor of the government. Based on that ruling, the FBI agents moved to vacate the judgment against them. The agents relied upon 28 U.S.C. 2676, which states that “The judgment in an action under section 1346 (b) of this title shall constitute a complete bar to any action by the claimant by reason of the same subject matter, against the employee of the government whose act or omission gave rise to the claim.” The court agreed with the defendants that the entry of judgment in the government’s favor on the FTCA claim eliminated the earlier judgment in Manning’s favor on the Bivens claims.The court noted that had Manning asked to withdraw his FTCA claims following receipt of judgment on his Bivens claims, before the Court had decided the FTCA claims, the Court would have likely allowed him to do so. Judge Kennelly stated that “Presumably he acted as he did because he believed that the risk of losing his Bivens judgment was outweighed by other factors. But whatever the reason, the choice was a strategic decision which cannot now be undone.”