A-10719, JANUARY 2, 1926, 5 COMP. GEN. 457

A-10719: Jan 2, 1926

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WHOSE PRIVATELY OWNED AUTOMOBILE WAS DAMAGED WHILE BEING USED BY HIM ON OFFICIAL BUSINESS AS THE RESULT OF A COLLISION AND WHO HAD ACCEPTED PAYMENT OF AN AMOUNT TENDERED BY THE PERSON INJURING HIS MACHINE. IS NOT ENTITLED TO ANY REIMBURSEMENT UNDER THE PROVISIONS OF THE ACT OF MARCH 4. THE AUTHORITY RELIED UPON FOR THE PAYMENT IS THE ACT OF MARCH 4. THE FACTS ARE STATED BY THE DISBURSING OFFICER AS FOLLOWS: MR. PAGTER WAS IN CHARGE OF THE COLVILLE NATIONAL FOREST. WHICH IS LOCATED IN THE STATE OF WASHINGTON. PAGTER'S WORK CARRIED HIM ACROSS THE BORDER LINE TO THE CANADIAN SIDE AND WHILE IN CANADA HIS AUTOMOBILE WAS STRUCK BY ANOTHER MACHINE. IT IS CLEAR THAT THE COLLISION OCCURRED THROUGH NO FAULT OF MR.

A-10719, JANUARY 2, 1926, 5 COMP. GEN. 457

PROPERTY, PRIVATE - DAMAGED WHILE BEING USED ON OFFICIAL BUSINESS AN EMPLOYEE OF THE FOREST SERVICE, WHOSE PRIVATELY OWNED AUTOMOBILE WAS DAMAGED WHILE BEING USED BY HIM ON OFFICIAL BUSINESS AS THE RESULT OF A COLLISION AND WHO HAD ACCEPTED PAYMENT OF AN AMOUNT TENDERED BY THE PERSON INJURING HIS MACHINE, IS NOT ENTITLED TO ANY REIMBURSEMENT UNDER THE PROVISIONS OF THE ACT OF MARCH 4, 1913, 37 STAT. 843.

DECISION BY COMPTROLLER GENERAL MCCARL, JANUARY 2, 1926:

A. ZAPPONE, DISBURSING CLERK, DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE, HAS REQUESTED REVIEW OF THE ACTION OF THIS OFFICE DISALLOWING CREDIT FOR A PAYMENT MADE BY HIM ON VOUCHER 57774, AMOUNTING TO $77.45, ACCOUNTS FOR OCTOBER, 1923, TO A. C. PAGTER, AN EMPLOYEE OF THE FOREST SERVICE, FOR DAMAGE TO HIS PERSONALLY OWNED AUTOMOBILE WHILE BEING OPERATED BY HIM ON OFFICIAL BUSINESS.

THE AUTHORITY RELIED UPON FOR THE PAYMENT IS THE ACT OF MARCH 4, 1913, 37 STAT. 843, RELATIVE TO PAYMENT OF DAMAGES TO PRIVATE PROPERTY UNDER HIRE TO THE GOVERNMENT. THE FACTS ARE STATED BY THE DISBURSING OFFICER AS FOLLOWS:

MR. PAGTER WAS IN CHARGE OF THE COLVILLE NATIONAL FOREST, WHICH IS LOCATED IN THE STATE OF WASHINGTON. THIS FOREST EXTENDS TO THE INTERNATIONAL BOUNDARY BETWEEN THE UNITED STATES AND CANADA. ON JULY 21, 1921, MR. PAGTER'S WORK CARRIED HIM ACROSS THE BORDER LINE TO THE CANADIAN SIDE AND WHILE IN CANADA HIS AUTOMOBILE WAS STRUCK BY ANOTHER MACHINE, DAMAGING IT TO A CONSIDERABLE EXTENT. FROM THE DETAILS OF THE ACCIDENT AND THE OFFER OF THE OWNER OF THE CAR TO MAKE SOME REIMBURSEMENT, IT IS CLEAR THAT THE COLLISION OCCURRED THROUGH NO FAULT OF MR. PAGTER. THIS IS ALSO BORNE OUT BY THE STATEMENT OF MR. WAHA, ASSISTANT DISTRICT FORESTER, WHO ACCOMPANIED MR. PAGTER AT THE TIME OF THE ACCIDENT. MR. PAGTER STATES HE HAD NO IDEA HE COULD RECEIVE REIMBURSEMENT FROM THE GOVERNMENT FOR ANY DAMAGES. HE EXPECTED TO PAY ANY REPAIR BILLS HIMSELF, AS HE KNEW NOTHING OF CANADIAN COURT PROCEDURE, AND DID NOT WANT TO BECOME INVOLVED IN AN ACTION AT LAW IN CANADA, NOR DID HE CARE TO HIRE A LAWYER AND STAND ANY FURTHER EXPENSE ON HIS PART NOT KNOWING WHETHER IF HE DID SECURE A VERDICT IN HIS FAVOR HE COULD ACTUALLY RECOVER ANYTHING FROM THE PARTY. FURTHERMORE, AT THE TIME OF ACCEPTING THE $10.00, HE WAS NOT, SO FAR AS HE KNEW, COMPROMISING A CLAIM IN WHICH THE DEPARTMENT MIGHT HAVE AN INTEREST. THE $10.00 WAS ACCEPTED BECAUSE OF THE INADVISABILITY OF TAKING FROM HIS OFFICIAL DUTIES THE TIME NECESSARY TO PROTECT HIS OWN INTERESTS AT THE SEASON OF THE YEAR WHEN THE PROTECTION OF THE FOREST IN HIS CHARGE DEMANDED HIS FULL ATTENTION, THE UNCERTAINTY OF THE OUTCOME OF THE SUIT, AND THE COST INCIDENT THERETO. LATER WHEN HE LEARNED THAT A CLAIM FOR PROPERTY DAMAGED WHILE IN OFFICIAL USE COULD BE PRESENTED TO THE DEPARTMENT, FOR PAYMENT, HE SUBMITTED HIS CLAIM, LESS THE $10.00 HE HAD RECEIVED.

ASSUMING THE FACTS TO BE AS STATED, IT IS UNNECESSARY TO DETERMINE WHETHER THEY WOULD HAVE ENTITLED THE EMPLOYEE TO REIMBURSEMENT FROM THE UNITED STATES UNDER THE PROVISIONS OF THE ACT OF MARCH 4, 1913, CITED, IF THE EMPLOYEE HAD NOT EFFECTED A SETTLEMENT WITH THE OWNER OF THE OTHER AUTOMOBILE.

THE PRIMARY LIABILITY WAS UPON THE OTHER PARTY WITH WHOM THE EMPLOYEE WAS IN COLLISION. THE EMPLOYEE APPARENTLY ENFORCED THAT LIABILITY AND ACCEPTED FROM HIM $10 OFFERED IN SETTLEMENT OF THE DAMAGE. THE ACCEPTANCE DIVESTED THE EMPLOYEE OF ALL FURTHER RIGHTS AND REMEDIES AGAINST THE WRONGDOER. THE EMPLOYEE CAN ASSERT NO CLAIM FOR REIMBURSEMENT BY THE UNITED STATES OF FURTHER AMOUNT IN ADDITION TO WHAT THE OTHER PARTY REIMBURSED, EVEN IF THE ACT OF 1913 IS APPLICABLE WHEN SUCH DAMAGE RESULTS FROM AN ORDINARY TRAFFIC ACCIDENT SUCH AS A COLLISION WITH AN AUTOMOBILE NOT OWNED, OPERATED, OR CONTROLLED BY THE GOVERNMENT. AS TO THIS, HOWEVER, COMPARE WITH DECISIONS OF NOVEMBER 5, 1925, 5 COMP. GEN. 326, AND DECEMBER 11, 1925, A-12064.

IT MAY BE ADDED THAT THE REASONS GIVEN BY THE EMPLOYEE FOR ACCEPTING THE MONEY TENDERED IN SETTLEMENT OF THE DAMAGE ARE NOT SUFFICIENT IN LAW TO EXCUSE HIM FROM THE LEGAL CONSEQUENCES OF HIS ACCEPTANCE. AS A CONSEQUENCE OF HIS ACT THE GOVERNMENT STANDS RELIEVED FROM ANY OBLIGATIONS IT MAY HAVE HAD IN THE MATTER UNDER THE REIMBURSEMENT ACT.