Torts – Federal Torts Claims Act- Pertinence of Governmental Proprietary Distinction

The tug Navajo went aground and its cargo was severely damaged by water. The owners and insurers of the tug and its cargo brought an action under the Federal Tort Claims Act alleging that the grounding of the Navajo was caused by the failure of the light in the lighthouse on Chandeleur Island, and that this failure was attributable to negligent acts and omissions on the part of Coast Guard personnel whose duty it was to check the light. The district court dismissed the action on the ground that the United States had not consented to be sued in the manner in which this suit was brought, and the court of appeals affirmed. The Supreme Court granted certiorari and affirmed per curiam; then, after granting a petition for rehearing, vacated its former judgment and held, reversed, four justices dissenting. The Federal Tort Claims Act cannot be construed to provide that the United States has consented to be sued only when it is engaged in a type of activity that private persons perform. Indian Towing Co. v. United States, 350 U.S. 61, 76 S. Ct. 122 (1955).