U.S. v. WONG
Kwai Fun Wong, a citizen of Hong Kong and leader of the Wu Wei Tien Tao religious organization, was arrested and deported by the United States Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) for unlawful entry into the U.S. Prior to her deportation, Wong was briefly detained by the INS, during which she claimed to have been treated negligently by the INS. Under the Federal Torts Claims Act, no civil suit may be filed against the United States unless the claimant has first filed a claim with the relevant federal agency and that claim has been denied. Following denial, a claimant has six months to file suit or the suit is permanently barred. Wong filed a claim with the INS and, following the denial of that claim, sought leave from the district court to add a civil claim against the U.S. to her already outstanding suit against a number of federal officials. For unexplained reasons, the district court did not allow Wong to amend her complaint until seven months later, after the six-month deadline had passed. The district court then dismissed Wong’s federal civil complaint and held that the six month deadline was “jurisdictional” and thus not subject to equitable tolling. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit reversed and found that equitable tolling could be applied to the six-month deadline.
Is the six-month statute of limitations for filing a federal civil suit following the denial of a claim by the relevant federal agency subject to equitable tolling?