Sanchez v. United States

More than 7,000 named plaintiffs brought suit under the Federal Tort Claims Act, 28 U.S.C. 1346(b), 2671-2680, asserting injuries because of the U.S. Navy's alleged negligence in emitting pollutants during military exercises (which ended in 2003) at the Atlantic Fleet Weapons Training Facility on Vieques Island, Puerto Rico. The district court dismissed with prejudice for lack of jurisdiction. The First Circuit affirmed. The limited abrogation of sovereign immunity in the FTCA does not extend to these claims because of the discretionary function exception, which precludes FTCA actions against government conduct which is both within the discretion of the relevant government party and susceptible to policy-related judgments. The court rejected arguments that the Navy acted beyond its discretion because it allegedly violated mandatory directives concerning water pollution issued pursuant to the Clean Water Act, 33 U.S.C. 1251-1389; violated a pair of permits that purportedly forbid firing depleted uranium bullets on Vieques; violated unidentified internal regulations, policies, directives, and orders; and failed to comply with a purported duty to warn.