United States Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit
709 F.2d 706 (1983)
Michael Thevis was a convicted felon. Thevis was in federal custody while the government investigated his criminal activities, but he escaped. One of the government’s key witnesses in its case against Thevis was Roger Underhill. Thevis had attempted to kill Underhill in the past. The agent in charge of investigating Thevis on behalf of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) was Paul King. King believed that Underhill was in constant and grave danger. King arranged for Underhill to assume a new identity through the FBI’s witness-protection program. Underhill, however, wanted to sell a tract of land that he owned prior to entering the witness-protection program. Against King’s advice, Underhill insisted on visiting the property several times and attempting to conduct the sale personally. Underhill was in frequent contact with King. Underhill called King to tell him that Underhill would be at the property the following day showing it to a potential buyer, Isaac Galanti. King did not warn Galanti of the danger Galanti risked by accompanying Underhill to the secluded property, nor did King surveil the property during the scheduled rendezvous. While Underhill and Galanti inspected the property, they were shot and killed at Thevis’s behest. Galanti’s widow, Vivian Galanti (plaintiff) sued the United States under the Federal Tort Claims Act. Vivian alleged that King negligently failed to warn Galanti against a foreseeable danger. To establish a case of negligence, Georgia law required that a plaintiff show that the defendant owed a legal duty to the victim. Although Georgia’s rule was that a person generally does not have a duty to warn others of a foreseeable danger, Vivian argued that the facts of the case fell within an exception. The United States moved to dismiss Vivian’s case for failure to state a claim upon which relief may be granted. The district court granted the motion, dismissing the suit. Vivian appealed.
Rule of Law
Holding and Reasoning (Morgan, J.)
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