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Indian Towing Co., Inc. v. United States, 350 U.S. 61 (1955)

Indian Towing Co., Inc. v. United States

No. 8

Argued February 10, 1955

Affirmed by an equally divided Court April 11, 1955

Rehearing granted May 16, 1955

Reargued October 13, 1955

Decided November 21, 1955

350 U.S. 61


If the Coast Guard is negligent in the operation of a lighthouse and damage is caused thereby, the United States is liable under the Tort Claims Act. Pp. 350 U. S. 61-70.

(a) The language of 28 U.S.C. § 2674, imposing liability "in the same manner and to the same extent as a private individual under like circumstances," is not to be read as excluding liability for negligent conduct in the operation of an enterprise in which private persons are not engaged. Pp. 350 U. S. 64-65.

(b) The Tort Claims Act does not impliedly incorporate the distinction between "governmental" and "nongovernmental" functions which has caused confusion in the law of municipal liability for torts. Pp. 350 U. S. 65-69.

(c) Once the Coast Guard has exercised its discretion to operate a lighthouse at a certain place, it is obligated to use due care to make certain that the light is kept in good working order, and, if the light becomes extinguished, the Coast Guard is further obligated to use due care to discover this fact and to repair the light or give warning that it is not functioning. P. 350 U. S. 69.

(d) Feres v. United States, 340 U. S. 135, and Dalehite v. United States, 346 U. S. 15, distinguished. P. 350 U. S. 69.

211 F.2d 886 reversed and remanded.

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