457 F.2d 1391 (3rd Cir. 1972), 19253, Gibson v. United States

Docket Nº19253.
Citation457 F.2d 1391
Party NameRonald GIBSON, Appellant, v. UNITED STATES of America.
Case DateMarch 30, 1972
CourtUnited States Courts of Appeals, Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit

Page 1391

457 F.2d 1391 (3rd Cir. 1972)

Ronald GIBSON, Appellant,

v.

UNITED STATES of America.

No. 19253.

United States Court of Appeals, Third Circuit.

March 30, 1972

Argued Sept. 16, 1971.

Page 1392

S. M. Chris Franzblau, Beckerman, Franzblau & Cohen, Newark, N. J., for appellant.

Michael Kimmel, Department of Justice, Civil Division, Washington, D. C., for appellee.

Before BIGGS, ADAMS and MAX ROSENN, Circuit Judges.

OPINION

MAX ROSENN, Circuit Judge.

This appeal is from an order dismissing with prejudice an action brought against the United States under the Federal Tort Claims Act, for personal injuries inflicted by the alleged negligence and omissions of Government employees. The district court apparently dismissed the complaint for lack of jurisdiction over the subject matter, believing the cause of action came within the exception provided by 28 U.S.C. § 2680(h). 1

The complaint makes the following allegations relevant to our decision: The appellant, Gibson, a college graduate, 26 years of age, was employed by the Federal Electric Co. to train Job Corps enrollees at the Raritan Arsenal in Edison,

Page 1393

New Jersey. One Jessie, a juvenile delinquent with a known addiction to narcotics, was a Job Corps enrollee employed and housed by the United States at the arsenal. On November 5, 1966, Jessie, while under the influence of narcotics and engaged in his employment with the United States, plunged a screwdriver through the appellant's temple while the latter was engaged in the performance of his duties as a Job Corps leader and instructor. The United States knew its enrollees were dangerously sick, mentally and morally, and was under a duty to take reasonable precautions and provide reasonable safety measures for the protection of such people as the appellant, who were required, as Job Corps leaders and instructors, to live and work with these enrollees. The United States was negligent in failing to take reasonable measures for appellant's safety, thereby causing him to suffer injuries for which he seeks damages in the sum of $500,000.

Appellant claims to have presented for filing in the district court a "supplemental factual statement" in opposition to the Government's motion to dismiss his complaint. At that time, he was represented by an attorney who subsequently withdrew from the practice of law. His present counsel, substituted by order of the district court on July 27, 1970, has advised this court that the supplemental factual statement attached to the plaintiff's brief in the district court contained a request that it be filed. The docket entries do not reveal that it was filed and there is no indication of district court action concerning this statement.

The supplemental factual statement makes the following allegations: Prior to the attack upon the appellant, there had been incidents at the arsenal of boys hitting other trainees with steel pipes and of "full-blown riots." Employees of the Office of Economic Opportunity had day-to-day authority over the process of selecting, controlling, disciplining and eliminating trainees. They were aware that the Federal Electric Co., the contractor conducting the program, did not have authority or equipment to prevent physical harm to the teachers. Personnel of the Office of Economic Opportunity at the operational level were given reports of serious incidents which preceded appellant's injuries, including the riots, drug addiction of trainees, and the acceptance into the Job Corps program at the arsenal, of trainees who were vicious, brutal juvenile offenders and drug addicts. (Emphasis supplied.)

In addition to a substantial denial of the allegations of the complaint, the appellee pleaded certain affirmative defenses, the most important of which were:

(1) The plaintiff's claim arises out of an assault and battery and is therefore barred by 28 U.S.C. § 2680(h); 2 and

(2) The plaintiff's claim is based on a discretionary duty or function and is barred by 28 U.S.C. § 2680(a). 3

The district court sustained the motion to dismiss under the provisions of § 2680(h), as a claim arising out of assault and battery. We believe that this was error.

Since this matter comes to us on an appeal from a motion to dismiss we take as true all of the allegations of the complaint. Cooper v. Pate, 378 U.S. 546, 84 S.Ct. 1733, 12 L.Ed.2d 1030 (1964) .

Page 1394

Although the supplemental statement of facts has not been incorporated into the pleadings, we will, in view of the decision we reach, treat the averments therein as properly pleaded and true. The supplemental factual statement merely elaborates, but does not change the theory on which the complaint was brought. It does not introduce a new cause of action. Under these circumstances, we think the interests of justice would best be served by treating the supplemental factual statement for the purpose of this appeal as if it were part of the record, and specifically granting leave to amend on remand. cf. Jones v. Freeman, 400 F.2d 383, 387 (8th Cir. 1968); Kaufman v. Western Union Telegraph Co., 224 F.2d 723, 725 (5th Cir. 1955); Brooks v. Yawkey, 200 F.2d 663 (1st Cir. 1953).

Except for certain areas of tort law specifically excluded, the Federal Tort Claims Act was enacted to provide a judicial remedy for those who suffer injury or damage as a result of the negligence or misconduct of an employee of the United States. In the case sub judice, liability is asserted against the United States because it affirmatively undertook a training program for dangerous, mentally ill young men who were known to be violent juvenile offenders and drug addicts, placed them under its control and custody on a day-to-day basis, but failed to exercise reasonable care by providing safety measures for the protection of instructors required to live and work with such trainees.

Ordinarily, there is no general duty to act for the protection of others. However, having undertaken a program of instruction, rehabilitation and care for these trainees, was the United States, or its agency in charge of the program under the affirmative duty to prevent those persons, recruited to train and instruct, from sustaining harm at the hands of these dangerous and violence prone trainees? We think it was. "When an agency of the United States voluntarily undertakes a task, it can be held to have accepted the duty of performing that task with due care." Rogers v. United States, 397 F.2d 12, 14 (4th Cir. 1968).

While it is acknowledged that the Office of Economic Opportunity entered into a contract with the Federal Electric Co. to conduct the program, appellant alleges that Federal Electric had no authority or equipment to prevent physical harm to the teachers. He asserts that it was the Office of Economic Opportunity who had the day-to-day authority over the process of selecting, controlling and disciplining the trainees. If the evidence sustains these allegations, it would appear then that the United States undertook certain duties with respect to these trainees and that it had the responsibility of performing them with due care. The exercise of due care under such circumstances might well require reasonable safety measures on the part of operational personnel in the program for the safety of those instructing the trainees.

One who takes charge of a third person whom he knows or who should know to be likely to cause bodily harm to others if not controlled is under a duty to exercise reasonable care to control the third person to prevent him from doing such harm.

Restatement of Torts, 2d, § 319.

According to Prosser, Torts (2d Ed. 1955), the general duty which arises in many relationships to take reasonable precautions for the safety of others "may include the obligation to exercise control over the conduct of third persons." Prosser, supra, at 188. In the case sub judice, the duty to control the conduct of the trainees is even stronger since they were allegedly employees of the United States at the time and definitely under its control.

While there are ample allegations in the complaint of a breach of duty by the United States because of a failure to exercise due care for the safety of instructors in the training program, the Government contends that the district court properly dismissed the complaint for

Page 1395

lack of jurisdiction under Section 2680(h), the assault and battery exception of the Federal Tort Claims Act.

We disagree for two reasons: First, the attack upon Gibson was a foreseeable consequence of the Government's failure to exercise due care under the circumstances and, therefore, it is not such an intervening act as will sever the necessary causal relation between the negligence and the appellant's injuries.

Here the very risk which constitutes the defendant's negligence is the probability of such action. It is clear that when such action occurs, it should...

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71 practice notes
  • 567 F.2d 1237 (3rd Cir. 1977), 76-2490, Gibson v. United States
    • United States
    • Federal Cases United States Courts of Appeals Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit
    • 15 Diciembre 1977
    ...that the United States had operational control of the Center) stated a claim upon which relief could be granted. Gibson v. United States, 457 F.2d 1391 (3d Cir. 1972). On March 17, 1975, after a non-jury trial limited to liability, the district court filed an opinion (dated March 14, 1975) ......
  • 786 F.Supp. 944 (S.D.Ala. 1992), Civ. A. 90-0884, Autery v. United States
    • United States
    • Federal Cases United States District Courts 11th Circuit Southern District of Alabama
    • 12 Marzo 1992
    ...1178, 1181-82 (6th Cir.1981), aff'd sub nom. Block v. Neal, 460 U.S. 289, 103 S.Ct. 1089, 75 L.Ed.2d 67 (1983); Gibson v. United States, 457 F.2d 1391 (3d Cir.1972); Creasy v. United States, 645 F.Supp. 853 (W.D.Va.1986); Loritts v. United States, 489 F.Supp. 1030 However, because the liabi......
  • 696 P.2d 871 (Idaho 1985), 15043, Merritt for Merritt v. State
    • United States
    • Idaho Supreme Court of Idaho
    • 5 Febrero 1985
    ...to an assault and battery committed by a person who is not in the employ of the government or an agent thereof. Gibson v. United States, 457 F.2d 1391 Rogers v. United States, 397 F.2d 12 Underwood v. United States, 356 F.2d 92 Muniz v. United States, 305 F.2d 285 Panella v. United States, ......
  • 732 P.2d 661 (Idaho 1986), 16214, Oppenheimer Industries, Inc. v. Johnson Cattle Co., Inc.
    • United States
    • Idaho Supreme Court of Idaho
    • 19 Noviembre 1986
    ...force, the very anticipation of which made his conduct negligent, has brought about the expected harm. Gibson v. United States, 457 F.2d 1391, 1395 (3d Cir.1972). To do so would fly in the face of basic principles of tort law, as recounted in the Restatement: If the likelihood that a third ......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
71 cases
  • 567 F.2d 1237 (3rd Cir. 1977), 76-2490, Gibson v. United States
    • United States
    • Federal Cases United States Courts of Appeals Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit
    • 15 Diciembre 1977
    ...that the United States had operational control of the Center) stated a claim upon which relief could be granted. Gibson v. United States, 457 F.2d 1391 (3d Cir. 1972). On March 17, 1975, after a non-jury trial limited to liability, the district court filed an opinion (dated March 14, 1975) ......
  • 786 F.Supp. 944 (S.D.Ala. 1992), Civ. A. 90-0884, Autery v. United States
    • United States
    • Federal Cases United States District Courts 11th Circuit Southern District of Alabama
    • 12 Marzo 1992
    ...1178, 1181-82 (6th Cir.1981), aff'd sub nom. Block v. Neal, 460 U.S. 289, 103 S.Ct. 1089, 75 L.Ed.2d 67 (1983); Gibson v. United States, 457 F.2d 1391 (3d Cir.1972); Creasy v. United States, 645 F.Supp. 853 (W.D.Va.1986); Loritts v. United States, 489 F.Supp. 1030 However, because the liabi......
  • 696 P.2d 871 (Idaho 1985), 15043, Merritt for Merritt v. State
    • United States
    • Idaho Supreme Court of Idaho
    • 5 Febrero 1985
    ...to an assault and battery committed by a person who is not in the employ of the government or an agent thereof. Gibson v. United States, 457 F.2d 1391 Rogers v. United States, 397 F.2d 12 Underwood v. United States, 356 F.2d 92 Muniz v. United States, 305 F.2d 285 Panella v. United States, ......
  • 732 P.2d 661 (Idaho 1986), 16214, Oppenheimer Industries, Inc. v. Johnson Cattle Co., Inc.
    • United States
    • Idaho Supreme Court of Idaho
    • 19 Noviembre 1986
    ...force, the very anticipation of which made his conduct negligent, has brought about the expected harm. Gibson v. United States, 457 F.2d 1391, 1395 (3d Cir.1972). To do so would fly in the face of basic principles of tort law, as recounted in the Restatement: If the likelihood that a third ......
  • Request a trial to view additional results