When it enacted the Federal Tort Claims Act Congress waived the United States’ sovereign immunity for certain torts of the federal government. That waiver is subject to exclusions, exceptions, and limitations that may seem puzzling or counterintuitive. This essay explains the structure and operation of the Federal Tort Claims Act by comparing it to “a traversable bridge across the moat of sovereign immunity” (a metaphor used by Judge Max Rosenn in a slightly different context). The essay examines why Congress enacted the FTCA, the jurisdictional grant that allows some tort claims but not others, the pre-requisites to bringing suit, the exceptions Congress wrote into the FTCA, and other statutes that limit tort suits against the United States.
Figley, Paul F. “Understanding the Federal Tort Claims Act: A Different Metaphor.” Tort Trial & Insurance Practice Law Journal 44 (Spring/Summer 2009): 1105- 1138.