Statutory Immunity Precludes Bivens Actions Against Public Health Service Officers
Hui v. Castaneda, No. 08-1529, involved an action raising medical negligence claims against the U.S. under the Federal Tort Claims Act (FTCA) and the Bivens doctrine. The Supreme Court reversed the denial of defendants' motion to dismiss the Bivens claims, holding that the immunity provided by 42 U.S.C. section 233(a) precluded Bivens actions against individual Public Health Service officers or employees for harms arising out of constitutional violations committed while acting within the scope of their office or employment.
As the Court wrote: "This case presents the question whether 42 U. S. C. § 233(a), as added, 84 Stat. 1870, precludes an actionunder Bivens v. Six Unknown Fed. Narcotics Agents, 403 U. S. 388 (1971), against U. S. Public Health Service (PHS) personnel for constitutional violations arising out of their official duties. When federal employees are sued for damages for harms caused in the course of their employment, the Federal Tort Claims Act (FTCA), 28 U. S. C.§§1346, 2671-2680, generally authorizes substitution of the United States as the defendant. Section 233(a) makes the FTCA remedy against the United States "exclusive of any other civil action or proceeding" for any personal injury caused by a PHS officer or employee performing a medical or related function "while acting within the scope of his office or employment." Based on the plain language of §233(a), we conclude that PHS officers and employees are not personally subject to Bivens actions for harms arising out of such conduct."
- Full Text of Hui v. Castaneda, No. 08-1529
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