CENTRAL GREEN CO. v. UNITED STATES

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Case Basics
Docket No. 
99-859
Petitioner 
Central Green Co.
Respondent 
United States
Advocates
(Argued the cause for the petitioner)
(Department of Justice, argued the cause for the respondent)
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Term:
Facts of the Case 

The Madera Canal, a federal facility leased to the Madera Irrigation District (MID), flows through Central Green Co.'s 1,000 acres of pistachio orchards in California. Central Green filed suit under the Federal Tort Claims Act against the United States and the MID alleging that their negligence in the canal's design, construction, and maintenance caused subsurface flooding resulting in damage to the orchards and increased operating costs. The Federal Government moved for judgment on the pleadings based on immunity granted by the Flood Control Act of 1928, which states that "no liability of any kind shall attach to or rest upon the United States for any damage from or by floods or flood waters at any place." The complaint was then dismissed because the canal was a part of the Friant Division of the Central Valley Project, whose purpose was flood control. In affirming, the Court of Appeals held that although the canal serves no flood control purpose, immunity is attached solely because it is a branch of the larger project.

Question 

Do the words "floods or flood waters" encompass all the water that flows through federal facilities, such that the Federal Government has immunity under the Flood Control Act of 1928 for damages such water may cause?

Conclusion 
Decision: 9 votes for Central Green Co., 0 vote(s) against
Legal provision: 33 U.S.C. 702

No. In a unanimous opinion delivered by Justice John Paul Stevens, the Court held that in determining whether, under the Flood Control Act of 1928, immunity attaches, courts should consider the character of the waters that caused the relevant damage and the purposes behind their release rather than the relation between that damage and a flood control project. Thus, the Federal Government's immunity from liability for flood damage required a determination of whether actual flows through the Federal Government's canal constituted flood waters, regardless of the canal's flood control purpose.

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CENTRAL GREEN CO. v. UNITED STATES. The Oyez Project at IIT Chicago-Kent College of Law. 21 October 2014. <http://www.oyez.org/cases/2000-2009/2000/2000_99_859>.
CENTRAL GREEN CO. v. UNITED STATES, The Oyez Project at IIT Chicago-Kent College of Law, http://www.oyez.org/cases/2000-2009/2000/2000_99_859 (last visited October 21, 2014).
"CENTRAL GREEN CO. v. UNITED STATES," The Oyez Project at IIT Chicago-Kent College of Law, accessed October 21, 2014, http://www.oyez.org/cases/2000-2009/2000/2000_99_859.