LOCATION: Los Angeles County Treasurer and Tax Collector
DOCKET NO.: 78-1014
DECIDED BY: Burger Court (1975-1981)
LOWER COURT: United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit
CITATION: 444 US 111 (1979)
ARGUED: Oct 03, 1979
DECIDED: Nov 28, 1979
Benjamin Kuby - on behalf of the Respondent
Elinor Hadley Stillman - on behalf of the Petitioner
Facts of the case
Media for United States v. KubrickAudio Transcription for Oral Argument - October 03, 1979 in United States v. Kubrick
Audio Transcription for Opinion Announcement - November 28, 1979 in United States v. Kubrick
Warren E. Burger:
The judgment and opinion of the Court in United States against Kubrick will be announced by Mr. Justice White.
Byron R. White:
The Federal Tort Claims Act allows tort suits against the United States and in these kinds of cases, the sovereign immunity of the United States is waived.
The Act provides however that the tort claim must be presented within two years after the claim accrues.
This case deals with when a medical malpractice tort claim accrues within the meaning of the Act.
The Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit held that it doesn't accrue until the plaintiff knows not only that he's been hurt in the cause of the injury but when he knows that the injury causing conduct may constitute medical malpractice.
We think that this holding represents the considerable departure from the prevailing law and finds little if any support in the statute toward a legislative history.
We hold that a medical malpractice tort claim accrues no later than when the plaintiff is aware of his injury and of its cause.
And at that time the two year statute begins to run and within that time he must decide whether to file suit or not in just the same way that other tort claimants must make up their mind.
Accordingly, the judgment of the Court of Appeals which was -- and the Court of Appeals here with the Third Circuit is reversed.
Mr. Justice Stevens has filed a dissenting opinion and he is joined Mr. Justice Brennan and Mr. Justice Marshall.
Warren E. Burger:
Thank you Mr. Justice White.