Westfall v. Erwin

PETITIONER: Westfall
RESPONDENT: Erwin
LOCATION: Hoopa Valley Indian Reservation

DOCKET NO.: 86-714
DECIDED BY: Rehnquist Court (1987-1988)
LOWER COURT: United States Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit

CITATION: 484 US 292 (1988)
ARGUED: Nov 02, 1987
DECIDED: Jan 13, 1988

ADVOCATES:
Donald B. Ayer - on behalf of the Petitioners
M. Clay Alspaugh - on behalf of the Respondent

Facts of the case

Question

Media for Westfall v. Erwin

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - November 02, 1987 in Westfall v. Erwin

Audio Transcription for Opinion Announcement - January 13, 1988 in Westfall v. Erwin

William H. Rehnquist:

The opinion of the Court in Westfall against Erwin, No.86-714 will be announced by Justice Marshall.

Thurgood Marshall:

This case is here on certiorari to the United States Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit.

The respondent brought a state law tort suit against petitioners who are federal employees, claiming that they suffered injuries as a result of petitioners' negligence in performing certain official acts.

The District Court granted summary judgment in favor of petitioners on the ground that federal employees are absolutely immune from state law tort suits for a conduct within the scope of their employment.

The Court of Appeals reversed, and here we conclude that federal officials enjoy absolute immunity from state law tort suits only if the challenge conduct is discretionary in nature as well as being within the scope of their employment.

We also reject petitioners' contention that an act is discretionary whenever the precise conduct of the federal employee is not prescribed by law.

The District Court erred in granting summary judgment because there is a genuine issue of fact that is rather petitioner exercised sufficient discretion in connection with the alleged tort to be absolutely immune from suit.

We therefore affirm the judgment of the Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit.