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Environmental Damage Claims Under the Federal Tort Claims Act: Examining Nanouk v. United States

Litigating the Discretionary Function Exception

Recording of a 90-minute CLE video webinar with Q&A

This program is included with the Strafford CLE Pass. Click for more information.
This program is included with the Strafford All-Access Pass. Click for more information.

Conducted on Thursday, February 25, 2021

Recorded event now available

or call 1-800-926-7926

This CLE course will advise environmental attorneys on the statutory analysis outlined in the Ninth Circuit's decision in Nanouk v. U.S. The panel will discuss the Federal Tort Claims Act (FTCA), the limitations of sovereign immunity, and the requirements to prove monetary damages.


The FTCA permits claims for monetary damages against the United States for injury or loss of property caused by the wrongful acts of federal employees when accompanied by a waiver of sovereign immunity. Environmental claims have often been barred due to the discretionary function exception, which preserves immunity for claims "based upon the exercise or performance or the failure to exercise or perform a discretionary function or duty on the part of a federal agency or an employee of the Government."

The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeal recently looked at this exception in Nanouk v. U.S. and found that the exception does not apply to ordinary negligence. The court used a two-step analysis to determine whether the complaint included an actual decision or judgment and, if so, whether that decision was policy based.

Environmental counsel wishing to pursue damages claims should be well versed in this and other recent decisions related to the FTCA and the limitations of sovereign immunity when proceeding against the federal government.

Listen as our authoritative panel discusses the decision and analysis of Nanouk v. U.S. and how this decision can direct best practices in pursuing claims for environmental damages against the federal government.



  1. History of Nanouk v. U.S.
  2. Pursuing FTCA claims
  3. Sovereign immunity waivers and discretionary function exception
  4. Monetary damages
  5. Best practices


The panel will review these and other relevant topics:

  • What is the history of the Nanouk v. U.S. case?
  • How does the discretionary function exception impact sovereign immunity waivers?
  • How can the FTCA be used to pursue environmental damages claims most effectively?
  • What are the best practices that can be adapted from Nanouk v. U.S.?


Fellers, Denise
Denise G. Fellers

Morgan Lewis & Bockius

Ms. Fellers focuses her practice on environmental law, with an emphasis on litigation relating to groundwater...  |  Read More

Matsnev, Brandon
Brandon P. Matsnev

Manko Gold Katcher & Fox

Mr. Matsnev concentrates his practice on environmental litigation and regulatory compliance matters and is a member of...  |  Read More

Minasian, Noorvik
Noorvik Minasian

Morgan Lewis & Bockius

Mr. Minasian’s practice revolves around complex commercial litigation matters. Prior to joining Morgan Lewis, he...  |  Read More

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