The Federal Tort Claim Act (FTCA) provides that a tort claim against the United States “shall be forever barred” unless the claimant meets two deadlines. First, the claim must be presented to the appropriate federal agency for administrative review “within two years after [the] claim accrues.” 28 U.S.C. §2401(b). Second, if the agency denies the claim, the claimant may file a suit in federal court “within six months” of the agency’s denial. Id.
In this United States Supreme Court decision, Kwai Fun Wong and Marlene June, respondents in Nos. 13-1074 and 13-1075, respectively, each missed one of those deadlines. Wong failed to file her FTCA claim in federal court within 6 months, but argued that was only because the District Court had not permitted her to file that claim until after the period expired. June failed to present her FTCA claim to the federal agency within 2 years, but argued that her untimely filing should be excused because the government had, in her view, concealed facts vital to her claim.
In each of these cases, the District Court dismissed the FTCA claim for failure to satisfy §2401(b)’s time bars, holding that, despite any justification for delay, those time bars are jurisdictional and not subject to equitable tolling. The Ninth Circuit reversed in both cases, concluding that §2401(b)’s time bars may be equitably tolled.