John Etzel, a United States soldier, was injured by a Standard Oil Company of California (Standard) (defendant) truck driven by its employee, Boone (defendant). The United States (plaintiff) paid Etzel’s medical expenses and wages while he was disabled. Standard and Boone paid Etzel $300 to release all his claims against them. The government filed suit against the defendants to recover its expenses related to Etzel’s injuries and interference with the government-soldier relationship with Etzel. The district court granted judgment for the government, but the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit reversed. The appellate court noted that state substantive common-law rules governed an action brought by the United States as a private litigant and determined that the government's case failed under California law. The United States Supreme Court granted certiorari.