Orleans v. U.S.

Decision Date13 January 1975
Docket NumberNo. 74--1496,74--1496
Citation509 F.2d 197
PartiesJoseph V. ORLEANS, by his father and next friend, Joseph A. Orleans, et al., Plaintiffs-Appellants, v. UNITED STATES of America, Defendant-Appellee.
CourtU.S. Court of Appeals — Sixth Circuit

William E. Pfau, Jr., Pfau, Comstock & Spinger, Youngstown, Ohio, James P. Murphy, Squire, Sanders & Dempsey, Charles F. Clarke, Cleveland, Ohio, for plaintiffs-appellants.

Frederick M. Coleman, U.S. Atty., D.D. Weisberger, James Diggs, Cleveland, Ohio, for defendant-appellee.

Before PECK and LIVELY, Circuit Judges, and McALLISTER, Senior Circuit Judge.

LIVELY, Circuit Judge.

This action was filed under the Federal Tort Claims Act to recover for personal injuries suffered by the plaintiff in an automobile accident. Plaintiff was one of a group of children who had been taken to a recreational area some distance from their homes on an outing which was part of the program of the Westlawn Neighborhood Opportunity Center (Westlawn). Westlawn was an 'activity' of the Warren-Trumbull Council for Economic Opportunity, Inc. (WTCEO). A van was furnished by WTCEO to Westlawn for the outing, but it was not large enough to carry all the children who turned out for the affair. Employees of WTCEO arranged for two young men from the Westlawn area to drive some of the children to the outing in privately owned automobiles. Plaintiff was a passenger in an automobile driven by Robert Walker and owned by Robert's father on the return trip when the accident occurred.

The complaint alleged that the outing was sponsored by the Office of Economic Opportunity and 'that the agents of the United States of America in charge of said outing were negligent in the organization and supervision of said outing . . .' resulting in plaintiff's injuries. The government answered that WTCEO is not an agent or instrumentality of the United States, nor is Westlawn such an instrumentality. In addition, the defendant denied that any agents of the United States were 'present during, before, or after the described outing.'

The defendant then moved for summary judgment and filed with its motion the affidavit of the regional director of the Office of Economic Opportunity (OEO) having jurisdiction of WTCEO, copies of community action program grants from OEO to WTCEO and a copy of an unpublished district court opinion. The gist of the regional director's affidavit is that the supervisors of WTCEO and Westlawn were not employees of OEO on the date of the accident and that these organizations 'make their own decisions as to whom to hire, discipline and discharge.' It states that OEO involvement in personnel decisions of WTCEO and Westlawn 'is limited to the issuance of standards.' The affidavit concludes with the statement that OEO does not supervise 'either on a day-to-day basis or otherwise' the activities of employees of the two organizations and that the employees are not 'subject to OEO supervision or control as to the quantity or quality of the work product they produce.'

In opposition in summary judgment the plaintiff filed affidavits of the chairman of the governing board of WTCEO and an attorney who had participated in the organization and management of WTCEO. In his affidavit the board chairman stated that he was appointed directly by the Regional Office of OEO and 'that presently the entire funding of the Warren-Trumbull Council for Economic Opportunity is by funds of the United States except for some so-called 'in kind' contributions, and that to his knowledge this is and has been the case throughout the history' of WTCEO. The affidavit of the attorney-board member contained inter alia, these statements:

That the corporation was formed for the purpose of obtaining funds made available through the Economic Opportunity Act of 1964 and to act primarily as an instrumentality of the United States by carrying out the purposes of the Economic Opportunity Act. The corporation was carefully organized and the by-laws and regulations tailored to come within the restrictions of the Economic Opportunity Act.

After the organization of the Warren Council for Economic Opportunity, Inc., it was funded almost totally by Federal funds made available through the Economic Opportunity Act, the only exception being some credit that may have been given for 'in kind' services rendered by local citizens. Its management and operation were under the direct supervision of the Regional Director of the Office of Economic Opportunity in Chicago.

The projects undertaken were those suggested by the Economic Opportunity Act or the directives of the Economic Opportunity Administration.

One of the projects undertaken by the Warren Council for Economic Opportunity, Inc. was the Westlawn Neighborhood Opportunity Center, which project was set up in accordance with the provisions of the Economic Opportunity Act of 1964 and more specifically, that portion at 42 U.S.Code Annotated, Section 2811,

The Affiant says that from the time of the organization of the Warren Council for Economic Opportunity, Inc. and the Westlawn Neighborhood Opportunity Center, the Warren Council for Economic Opportunity, Inc. and Westlawn Neighborhood Opportunity Center acted as agencies to serve and assist the poor in methods and manners outlined and prescribed by the Economic Opportunity Act and numerous instructions, restrictions and requirements of the Director of the Office of Economic Opportunity. These instructions and requirements directed the manner in which the Warren Council for Economic Opportunity, Inc. and the Westlawn Neighborhood Opportunity Center be organized, the classes of persons who were to be employed as directors or serve as trustees, the nature and purpose of the projects to be undertaken and the methods for carrying out such projects. Before funding was granted, the United States of America, through the Office of the Director of Economic Opportunity and his regional directors, was required to approve projects and the outlined approach for conducting them. After a project was approved, its operation was supervised by the Office of the Regional Directors in Chicago.

Without the Economic Opportunity Act and the funds made available thereunder, the Warren Council for Economic Opportunity, Inc. would not have been created and could not have operated or existed.

The plaintiff also filed depositions of a former employee of Westlawn, the former director of WTCEO and of the regional director of OEO whose affidavit had been filed by defendant. These depositions explored the relations between OEO and the local organizations, particularly with respect to personnel matters, funding and selection of projects.

In granting summary judgment for the defendant the district court found that no issue as to any material fact existed and accepted as true the following 'four basic facts' urged by the plaintiff:

First, the Warren-Trumbull Council for Economic Opportunity, Inc. was created for the purpose of carrying out the community action programs, contained in the Economic Opportunity Act of 1964. Second, the Warren-Trumbull Council and its activity, the Westlawn Neighborhood Opportunity Center, received funds from no source other than the Office of Economic Opportunity. Third, the Council conducted no programs other than those formulated and funded by the federal government. Fourth, the Office of Economic Opportunity and its regional office in Chicago exercised close supervision over the Council and its activities.

The court rejected the plaintiff's conclusion that these facts require a holding that the United States may be sued under provisions of the Federal Tort Claims Act on account of the negligence of an employee of WTCEO or Westlawn. Rather, he found that the defendant was entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Rule 56(c), Fed.R.Civ.P.

Under the Federal Tort Claims Act recovery is allowed against the federal government generally in those cases where recovery would be permitted against a private individual or corporate defendant. 28 U.S.C. § 2674. Exclusive jurisdiction of actions for damages under this Act is vested in the district courts. 28 U.S.C. § 1346(b). Since the government acts only through its agents and employees, general principles of respondeat superior apply, subject to 28 U.S.C. § 2671 which contains these definitions:

As used in this chapter and sections 1346(b) and 2401(b) of this title, the term 'Federal agency' includes the executive departments, the military departments, independent establishments of the United States, and corporations primarily acting as instrumentalities or agencies of the United States, but does not include any contractor with the United States.

'Employee of the government' includes officers or employees of any federal agency, members of the military or naval forces of the United States, and persons acting on behalf of a federal agency in an official capacity, temporarily or permanently in the service of the United States, whether with or without compensation.

'Acting within the scope of his office or employment', in the case of a member of the military or naval forces of the United States, means acting in line of duty.

The district court concluded that WTCEO is a contractor with OEO and 'thus the government is specifically excluded from liability for torts of the employees of the council under 28 U.S.C. § 2671.' The court found that the approach to eliminating poverty which Congress adopted in the Economic Opportunity Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. § 2701 et seq., was basically to rely on local community effort. The purpose of a community action council such as WTCEO is not merely to act as a federal agency to administer federal programs. Rather, the court held, its responsibility is to use local capabilities to coordinate all programs in the community, including state and local programs, as well as federal ones. The fact that WTCEO received no funds other than grants from OEO and conducted no programs other...

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5 cases
  • United States v. Orleans
    • United States
    • U.S. Supreme Court
    • June 1, 1976
    ...may serve on a community action board, has no power to supervise the community action agency or its neighborhood program. Pp. 817-819. 509 F.2d 197, reversed. Harry R. Sachse, Washington, D. C., for petitioner. William E. Pfau, Jr., Youngstown, Ohio, for respondents. Mr. Chief Justice BURGE......
  • Griffith v. Bell-Whitley Community Action Agency
    • United States
    • U.S. Court of Appeals — Sixth Circuit
    • January 31, 1980
    ...some layoffs, but the decision as to who should be terminated was left to the agency. As this court stated in Orleans v. United States, 509 F.2d 197, 203 (6th Cir. 1975), rev'd, 425 U.S. 807, 96 S.Ct. 1971, 48 L.Ed.2d 390 (T)he requirements imposed on these local agencies by statute and reg......
  • Relf v. United States
    • United States
    • U.S. District Court — District of Columbia
    • January 29, 1977
    ...that federal funds not be diverted to unauthorized purposes. 425 U.S. at 816, 96 S.Ct. at 1977 (footnote omitted). 8 Orleans v. United States, 509 F.2d 197 (6th Cir. 1975). 9 This proximate cause question is not before the Court inasmuch as it has been conceded arguendo by the defendants fo......
  • Wright v. United States
    • United States
    • U.S. District Court — District of Montana
    • January 24, 1977
    ...or agency of the United States of America. In making this argument, the plaintiff relies heavily on the case of Orleans v. United States of America, 509 F.2d 197 (6th Cir. 1975). In that case, a minor sued the United States under the Federal Tort Claims Act to recover for personal injuries ......
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