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Reed v. Department of the Interior

ELR Citation: 31 ELR 20239
Nos. No. 99-15250, 231 F.3d 501/(9th Cir., 11/02/2000)

The court affirms a district court decision that the Federal Tort Claims Act's discretionary function exception barred an individual's suit against the United States to recover damages for injuries he suffered after a car ran over his tent while he was attending a festival held on federally owned land in Nevada. The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) manages the land where the festival occurred. The court first holds that under the discretionary function exception, the government cannot be held liable for the individual's injuries. BLM possessed discretion to determine whether to issue a permit to the festival organizers and, if issued, to decide the restrictions to be applied. BLM, in its exercise of discretion, balanced competing public policy concerns, including concerns about public access, safety, resource allocation, and the environment. Further, even if the exercise of that governmental discretion was ill-advised, it does not make the discretionary function inapplicable. Even if the particular provisions in the festival permit were not well-conceived, BLM's exercise of discretion is beyond the individual's reach. In addition, although the individual asserted that BLM failed to reasonably monitor the festival, the discretionary decisions made as to the precise manner in which BLM should monitor events also fall under the discretionary function exception. Likewise, there is no evidence that BLM determined that a permit violation affecting the public health of safety had occurred, thereby requiring it to suspend the festival's permit. And, even if BLM had determined that a violation occurred, whether that violation affected public health or safety mandating the permit's suspension would necessarily include a discretionary balancing of policy consideration. The court then holds that because the discretionary function exception applies, the district court lacks subject matter jurisdiction and, thus, properly granted summary judgment in favor of the United States.

The full text of this decision is available from ELR (10 pp., ELR Order No. L-289).

Counsel for Plaintiffs
Michael M. Shea
Shea & Shea
The James Square Bldg.
255 N. Market St., Ste. 190, San Jose CA 95110
(408) 292-2434

Counsel for Defendants
Robert S. Mueller III
U.S. Attorney's Office
280 S. First St., Rm. 371,San Jose CA 95113
(408) 535-5061