This chapter sets forth the responsibilities and detailed procedures for the settlement of tort claims and appropriation act claims against the United States Government resulting from activities of Reclamation.
The Office of the Solicitor considers all damage claims within the provisions of both the Federal Tort Claims Act and the Public Works Appropriation Act.
(a) The Federal Tort Claims Act.
(1) This Act provides a means whereby damages may be awarded as a result of claims against the United States for "injury or loss of property or personal injury or death caused by the negligent or wrongful act or omission of any employee of the Government while acting within the scope of his "office or employment."
(2) Examples of claims for which recovery may be sought:
(a) Accidents involving Government-owned or rented cars.
(b) Property damage caused by careless use of construction equipment.
(c) Injuries to persons resulting from negligence in posting warning signs or providing safety devices.
(d) Property destroyed while burning weeds along a canal.
(e) Stock drowned in canal (State law determines liability).
(f) Crops killed by wind drift of chemicals while spraying weeds.
(b) The Public Works Appropriation Act.
(1) This Act, for any current year, allows Reclamation to pay claims for property damages or loss resulting from Reclamation activities. The Act applies only to claims which result directly from a nontortious action by Reclamation personnel.
(2) The types of claims paid under this Act have included:
(a) Damage from canal seepage.
(b) Crops damaged by flooding from canal break.
(c) Flood damage caused by unusually high reservoir releases.
114S-70.202 Processing Tort Claims.
(a) Claims for Administrative Determination. Claims of any amount must be submitted by the claimant or his representative for administrative determination.
1. Such claims are generally submitted to the Reclamation office directly involved. If submitted to another office, the claim should be forwarded to the appropriate office.
2. A claim will be deemed to have been presented when Reclamation receives from a claimant, his duly authorized agent, or legal representative, an executed SF-95 or a written notification of an incident, together with a claim for money damages, in a sum certain, for damage to or loss of property or personal injury, or death. When a person expresses an intent or desire to submit a claim, copies of SF-95 will be provided.
3. The claim should be date stamped by the Claims Officer upon receipt. The original claim form with all related documentation should be forwarded to the appropriate Solicitor's Office for a determination.
4. The claimant may appeal to the Solicitor's Office that issued the original determination within 6 months of the date of mailing of the administrative determination.
(b) Tort Suits. Suits may be instituted in a U.S. District Court within a period of 6 months from the date of mailing of the determination by the Solicitor for a tort claim.
1. The Department of Justice notifies the Solicitor, Department of the Interior, when a suit has been filed and requests a full investigation and reply. The Solicitor usually requests that the Commissioner take appropriate action and provide a report. The Claims Officer in the Reclamation Service Center will refer the matter to the appropriate regional office.
2. When the Justice Department refers a proposed compromise, the Solicitor's Office, wherever feasible, consults with the appropriate Reclamation office concerned.
3. The Office of the Solicitor notifies the appropriate Reclamation office regarding the final disposition of the case.
114S-70.203 Processing Appropriation Act Claims.
(a) Receipt for Claims. Appropriation Act claims (often referred to as irrigation claims) are presented to the Solicitor's Office in a manner similar to that described in 114S-70.202. However, Appropriation Act claims have no monetary limit.
(b) Claims for Administrative Determination.
1. The procedures for handling administrative determinations of Appropriation Act claims are similar to those for tort claims described in 114S-70.202.
2. The Field Solicitors may make administrative determinations of Appropriation Act claims. Regional Solicitors have full authority to determine Appropriation Act claims.
3. After disposition by the Solicitor, the claimant may institute an action under the Tucker Act in the appropriate District Court or the Court of Claims.
114S-70.204 Suits Under the Tucker Act or in U.S. Court of Claims.
The Tucker Act provides for reimbursement for property that may have been taken as the result of Reclamation's operations but not acquired through normal land acquisition procedures. The U.S. District Courts handle suits of a nontortious nature filed under the Tucker Act. All claims of this nature may be filed in the U.S. Court of Claims in Washington, D.C., but such claims which exceed $10,000 must be filed in the U.S. Court of Claims. Such suits are handled similarly to tort claims as described in 114S-70.202.