Exceptions to the FTCA
The FTCA does not waive immunity for all torts: major exceptions are carved out in 28 U.S.C. § 2680 . These exceptions stipulate that the federal government will not be held liable for the claims against its employees arising out of assault, battery, false imprisonment, false arrest, malicious prosecution, abuse of process, libel, slander, misrepresentation, deceit, or interference with contract rights. Also not allowed are damages from a quarantine imposed by the federal government. Claims based on intentional actions that are excluded from the FTCA may be brought as Bivens actions, if they rise to the level of constitutional violations (constitutional torts).
Products liability claims are not specifically addressed in the FTCA. However, cases that have dealt with questions of federal government liability for defective products generally dispose of such claims on government contractor or discretionary function grounds. For example, in a toxic tort claim against the federal government under the FTCA for neurological problems suffered by an infant allegedly as a result of exposure to roof sealant, the court held, inter alia, the claims against the government were barred under either the independent contractor exception or discretionary function exception. Goewey v. U.S., 886 F. Supp. 1268 (S.C. 1995). Strict liability for ultrahazardous activities is not allowed against the federal government under the FTCA. Laird v. Nelms, 406 U.S. 797 (1972).
Perhaps most significantly, § 2680(a) precludes recovery from the government for:
"[A]ny claim based upon an act or omission of an employee of the Government, exercising due care, in the execution of a statute or regulation, whether or not such statute or regulation be valid, or based upon the exercise or performance or the failure to exercise or perform a discretionary function or duty on the part of a federal agency or an employee of the Government, whether or not the discretion involved be abused."
This is the discretionary-function exception, and is discussed more fully below.