114S-70.100 Statutory Authority.
The United States Government is immune to liability for damages caused by its operations or by acts of its employees except as provided by Federal legislation. Although this legislation may take the form of a private relief bill, most damage claims involving Reclamation activities are settled under provisions of one of the laws described in 451 DM.
114S-70.101 General Requirements in Seeking Damages.
(a) Instituting Action to Recover Damages. The various Acts of Federal legislation referred to in 451 DM establish procedures whereby claimants may seek damages. Recovery may be sought:
(1) For tort claims by:
(i) Submitting claims in any amount for administrative determination to the appropriate Solicitor's Office through the appropriate Claims Officer in Reclamation; and
(ii) Filing suit, within 6 months after administrative denial of the claim, in the Federal District Court in the District in which the incident happened or in which the claimant resides.
(2) For nontortious claims under the Public Works Appropriation Act, by submitting claims in any amount for administrative determination by the Department. A claimant may seek settlement by way of court action, but settlement by administrative determination is preferred.
(3) For loss or damage to employees' personal property, by submitting claims not exceeding $25,000.
(4) For nontortious claims under the Tucker Act, by instituting suits:
(i) For damages up to $10,000 in the Federal District Court in the District in which the incident happened or the claimant resides, or
(ii) For damages in any amount in U.S. Court of Claims.
(b) Time Limitations. Generally, claims must be filed or suits begun within 2 years from the time the incident giving rise to the claim occurred. The statute of limitations for filing claims under the Tucker Act is 6 years. There is no time limit for filing claims for administrative action under the Public Works Appropriation Act.
(c) Release by Claimant. Before payment of an administrative award or a court judgment, the claimant must indicate acceptance of the award or judgment by signing a release which prevents additional recovery by the same claimant for the same subject matter.
114S-70.102 Responsibilities for Claims.
Organization (Regions and Reclamation Service Center) Directors are responsible to designate a Claims Officer. Designation of Claims Officers may also be made for area offices, when appropriate. Claims Officers are responsible for:
(a) Providing staff assistance on matters relating to tort claims, appropriation act claims, and employee claims for loss or damage to personal property; and
(b) Coordinating with Office of the Solicitor for determination of whether a claim will be allowed on the basis of the facts and applicable law is a legal or judicial function and the responsibility of lawyers and judges. The appropriate Regional or Field Solicitor should be contacted for legal advice on matters pertaining to accidents and claims, and for necessary legal action on claims or suits involving Reclamation.
114S-70.103 Assistance to Claimants.
In many cases the injured parties are not familiar with Government procedures for paying damage claims and may request information from Reclamation field representatives. Although Reclamation employees may not act for the claimant as his agent in filing the claim, they should not be reluctant to advise the claimant of the appropriate rules and regulations. The claimant should be advised that:
(a) Tort claims under the Federal Tort Claims Act and nontortious claims under the Public Works Appropriation Act may be settled without going to court.
(b) Tort claims and Public Works Appropriation Act claims must be filed in writing, preferably on SF-95, Claim for Damage, Injury, or Death. Form DI-570 should be used in filing employee claims for loss or damage to personal property. Each claim should state the specific amount claimed for damages and be supported with two estimates of actual costs.
114S-70.104 Claims Related to Civilian Conservation Centers.
The Center Director has responsibility with respect to claims or potential claims involving Civilian Conservation Center activities in the same manner as other Reclamation supervisors for their respective activities. Claims Officers or operating claims investigators will perform or assist with these investigations to the same extent as for other Reclamation activities. Other policies and procedures in this Part apply to Civilian Conservation Centers, except as shown below.
(a) Exception. Claims involving Civilian Conservation Center activities will be handled by the legal staff of the Solicitor's Office of the Department of Labor instead of by the Solicitor's Office of the Department of the Interior. Accordingly, the Center Director will send all claims and related investigative reports to the Regional Claims Officer who will forward them to the Regional Solicitor of the Department of Labor (instead of Interior's Regional or Field Solicitor) with copies to the appropriate regional or operating office. Claims from the Pacific Northwest Region Job Corps Centers will be mailed to the Regional Solicitor, Department of Labor, Federal Building, PO Box 36107, San Francisco CA 94102; and claims from the Upper Colorado Region Job Corps Centers will be mailed to the Department of Labor, Regional Director of Job Corps, City Center Square, 1100 Main Street, Suite 1000, Kansas City MO 64106.