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MARYLAND V. UNITED STATES, 381 U. S. 41 (1965)

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U.S. Supreme Court

Maryland v. United States, 381 U.S. 41 (1965)

Maryland for Use of Levin v. United States

No. 345

Argued March 15, 1965

Decided May 3, 1965

381 U.S. 41


Petitioners' decedents were passengers on an airliner which collided with a jet trainer assigned to the Maryland Air National Guard. The only survivor was the jet trainer pilot, whose negligence is not disputed. The pilot held a commission from the Governor of Maryland as an officer in the Maryland Air National Guard, where he served on alternate Saturdays as a fighter pilot and Squadron Maintenance Officer. He was otherwise employed by the Guard as a civilian Aircraft Maintenance Chief under 32 U.S.C. § 709, as a so-called "caretaker" of Guard property. This suit was brought against the United States under the Federal Tort Claims Act. The principal issue below was whether the pilot was in his military or civilian capacity at the time of the accident. The District Court found he was in a civilian status, and awarded judgment for petitioners, but the Court of Appeals reversed.

Held: In both his civilian and military capacities, the pilot was an employee of the State of Maryland, and thus the United States is not liable under the Federal Tort Claims act for his negligence in either capacity. Pp. 381 U. S. 46-53.

(a) Except when called into federal service, the Guard is in charge of the Governor of the State, and its military members are state employees. Pp. 381 U. S. 47-48.

(b) Civilian caretakers, while meeting federal requirements and receiving payment from the United States, are under the jurisdiction of the State Adjutant General, and are performing a state function. Pp. 381 U. S. 48-49.

(c) United States v. Holly, 192 F.2d 221, which held that civilian caretakers were employees of the United States, was decided on an incorrect construction of the National Defense Act. P. 381 U. S. 50.

(d) Congressional enactments, despite the Holly line of cases, treat both military and civilian employees of the National Guard as state employees. Pp. 381 U. S. 51-52.

329 F.2d 722 affirmed. chanroblesvirtualawlibrary

Page 381 U. S. 42

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