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Henderson v. United States
United States Supreme Court
517 U.S. 654, 116 S. Ct. 1638, 134 L. Ed. 2d 880 (1996)
On August 27, 1991, Lloyd Henderson (plaintiff) was injured while working on a boat owned and operated by the United States government (defendant). On April 8, 1993, Henderson filed a personal-injury lawsuit in federal district court against the government under the Suits in Admiralty Act, a federal statute that waived sovereign immunity and authorized a seaman injured on a vessel owned by the United States government to sue the government. The United States attorney general was served the complaint and summons on May 25, 47 days after the complaint was filed, and the United States attorney was served on August 25, 148 days after the complaint was filed. The Suits in Admiralty Act provided that service of process should be made forthwith. Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 4 provided that service of process should be made within 120 days of filing a complaint and allowed a court to extend that period. The government moved to dismiss Henderson’s complaint, arguing that the district court did not have jurisdiction over the case because Henderson failed to serve the government with his complaint forthwith, meaning that the Suits in Admiralty Act’s conditions for waiver of sovereign immunity were not satisfied. Henderson opposed the motion to dismiss, arguing that Rule 4 superseded the service-of-process rules provided by the Suits in Admiralty Act. The district court dismissed Henderson’s complaint. The court of appeals affirmed the district court. Henderson appealed, and the United States Supreme Court granted certiorari.
Rule of Law
Holding and Reasoning (Ginsburg, J.)
Concurrence (Scalia, J.)
Dissent (Thomas, J.)
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