A-65244, JANUARY 27, 1936, 15 COMP. GEN. 662

A-65244: Jan 27, 1936

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DAMAGES TO PRIVATELY OWNED AUTOMOBILE - REPAIRS AUTHORIZED BY GOVERNMENT EMPLOYEE - LIABILITY OF THE UNITED STATES THERE IS NO LIABILITY ON THE UNITED STATES FOR PAYMENT OF A CLAIM FOR REPAIRS TO A PRIVATELY OWNED AUTOMOBILE REPORTED TO HAVE BEEN DAMAGED IN A COLLISION WITH A GOVERNMENT-OWNED CAR. THE FACTS OF THE HAPPENING ARE AS STATED BY MR. NEITHER OF US WERE ABLE TO EITHER STOP OR COMPLETE OUR INTENDED MANEUVER. WHEN THE CARS STOPPED MY CAR WAS STILL HEADED DIRECTLY EAST ABOUT MIDWAY THE STREET. THE TAN SEDAN WAS IN FRONT AND HEADED ABOUT SOUTHEAST. NEITHER OF US WERE HURT. IS 25 FEET WIDE AND PAVED. ON THE RIGHT HAND SIDE IS A WAREHOUSE WITH PLATFORM. IT IS REPORTED ALSO THAT MR. THAT THE USUAL PROCEDURE IN SUCH CASES IS FOR THE OWNER OF THE DAMAGED AUTOMOBILE TO PAY THE REPAIR BILL AND FILE CLAIM WITHIN A YEAR.

A-65244, JANUARY 27, 1936, 15 COMP. GEN. 662

DAMAGES TO PRIVATELY OWNED AUTOMOBILE - REPAIRS AUTHORIZED BY GOVERNMENT EMPLOYEE - LIABILITY OF THE UNITED STATES THERE IS NO LIABILITY ON THE UNITED STATES FOR PAYMENT OF A CLAIM FOR REPAIRS TO A PRIVATELY OWNED AUTOMOBILE REPORTED TO HAVE BEEN DAMAGED IN A COLLISION WITH A GOVERNMENT-OWNED CAR, THE REPAIRS HAVING BEEN MADE AT THE VERBAL SUGGESTION OF THE GOVERNMENT EMPLOYEE DRIVER.

COMPTROLLER GENERAL MCCARL TO THE SECRETARY OF THE TREASURY, JANUARY 27, 1936:

THE COMMISSIONER OF CUSTOMS BY LETTER OF AUGUST 23, 1935, SUBMITTED FOR CONSIDERATION OF THIS OFFICE THE CLAIM OF WESTWOOD-WALDRON INC., FOR $66.75, AS REPAIRS TO AN AUTOMOBILE OWNED BY A JAMES NOWLAN AND REPORTED DAMAGED ON NOVEMBER 10, 1932, AT ST. PETERSBURG, FLA., IN A COLLISION WITH A GOVERNMENT-OWNED AUTOMOBILE CUSTOMS IDENTIFICATION NO. 11761, OPERATED BY A CUSTOMS AGENT, HOWARD E. MOORE.

THE FACTS OF THE HAPPENING ARE AS STATED BY MR. MOORE IN A REPORT DATED NOVEMBER 10, 1932, AS FOLLOWS:

AT ABOUT 4:45 P.M., WHILE PROCEEDING IN U.S.C. 11761 EAST ON 8TH ST. (ST. PETERSBURG), DRIVING ABOUT 30 TO 35 MILES PER HOUR, I SUDDENLY SAW A TAN SEDAN ABOUT 15 FEET IN FRONT AND A LITTLE TO MY RIGHT, UNDER WAY GOING EAST, IN THE ACT OF MAKING A LEFT TURN. I ATTEMPTED TO SWERVE TO THE LEFT AT THE SAME TIME APPLYING MY FOOT-BRAKES. THE DRIVER OF THE TAN SEDAN SAW MY CAR APPROACHING FROM HIS LEFT SIDE AND TO THE REAR ABOUT THE SAME INSTANT I SAW HIM. HE IN TURN ATTEMPTED TO PULL OUT OF HIS LEFT TURN AND GO STRAIGHT AHEAD, BUT NEITHER OF US WERE ABLE TO EITHER STOP OR COMPLETE OUR INTENDED MANEUVER. WE COLLIDED DIRECTLY IN THE MIDDLE OF THE STREET, MY RIGHT FRONT WHEEL, BUMPER, AND FENDER HITTING HIS CAR ON HIS LEFT SIDE JUST IN FRONT OF THE FRONT DOOR, CRUSHING HIS LEFT FRONT FENDER, RUNNING BOARD, APRON, AND WHEEL. WHEN THE CARS STOPPED MY CAR WAS STILL HEADED DIRECTLY EAST ABOUT MIDWAY THE STREET. THE TAN SEDAN WAS IN FRONT AND HEADED ABOUT SOUTHEAST. NEITHER OF US WERE HURT.

EIGHTH STREET RUNS EAST AND WEST, IS 25 FEET WIDE AND PAVED. ON THE RIGHT HAND SIDE IS A WAREHOUSE WITH PLATFORM, THE STREET PAVED TO THE PLATFORM WITH NO SIDEWALK. ON THE LEFT HAND SIDE OF EIGHTH ST. A WIRE FENCE, WHICH RUNS ALONG THE CURB.

IT IS REPORTED ALSO THAT MR. MOORE AUTHORIZED THE CLAIMANT TO TOW THE PRIVATELY OWNED AUTOMOBILE FROM THE SCENE OF THE ACCIDENT TO THE CLAIMANT'S GARAGE AND TO PLACE SAID PRIVATELY OWNED AUTOMOBILE IN SERVICEABLE CONDITION; THAT THE USUAL PROCEDURE IN SUCH CASES IS FOR THE OWNER OF THE DAMAGED AUTOMOBILE TO PAY THE REPAIR BILL AND FILE CLAIM WITHIN A YEAR, BUT THAT IN THE INSTANT CASE SUCH PROCEDURE WAS OVERLOOKED AND THAT THE WHEREABOUTS OF JAMES NOWLAN, THE OWNER OF THE PRIVATE AUTOMOBILE IN THIS CASE IS UNKNOWN; HENCE THE CLAIM OF THE GARAGE CONCERNED HAS BEEN ADMINISTRATIVELY APPROVED FOR PAYMENT, THE ADMINISTRATIVE OFFICE REPORTING THAT THE CLAIMANT ACTED IN GOOD FAITH AND MADE THE REPAIRS UPON ORDERS OF AN OFFICER OF THE GOVERNMENT WHOM THEY HAD A RIGHT TO BELIEVE WAS ACTING WITHIN THE SCOPE OF HIS OFFICE, AND IS SUBMITTED TO THIS OFFICE AS HAVING EQUITIES FOR CONSIDERATION UNDER THE PROVISIONS OF THE ACT OF APRIL 10, 1928, 45 STAT. 413.

IT MAY BE SAID FIRST THAT THE FACTS PRESENT A MATTER OF CLAIM BETWEEN THE CUSTOMS AGENT, MR. MOORE, PERSONALLY AND THE GARAGE, AND NOT A CLAIM AGAINST THE UNITED STATES. THERE WAS NO AUTHORITY IN THE CUSTOMS AGENT TO IMPOSE AN OBLIGATION ON THE UNITED STATES IN HAVING THE GARAGE HANDLE THE DAMAGED AUTOMOBILE OF MR. NOWLAN, NOR DID THE ACT OF THE CUSTOMS AGENT IMPOSE AN OBLIGATION ON THE UNITED STATES.

THE GENERAL RULE IS THAT THE UNITED STATES GOVERNMENT IS NEITHER BOUND NOR ESTOPPED BY THE ACTS OF ITS OFFICERS AND AGENTS IN ENTERING INTO AN AGREEMENT OR ARRANGEMENT TO DO OR CAUSE TO BE DONE THAT WHICH THE LAW DOES NOT SANCTION OR PERMIT. ALSO, THOSE DEALING WITH AN AGENT OF THE UNITED STATES MUST BE HELD TO HAVE HAD NOTICE OF THE LIMITATION OF HIS AUTHORITY. UTAH POWER AND LIGHT CO. V. UNITED STATES, 243 U.S. 389, 409; SUTTON V. UNITED STATES, 256 U.S. 575, 579.

THE CLAIMANT GARAGE APPEARS TO HAVE RELEASED THE AUTOMOBILE BACK TO THE OWNER, MR. NOWLAN, WITHOUT PAYMENT FOR THE WORK DONE. ITS PRIMARY CLAIM THEN IS AGAINST THE PARTY WHO ORDERED THE WORK--- THE CUSTOMS AGENT, MR. MOORE, AND NOT AGAINST THE UNITED STATES. THE FACTS SHOW NO BASIS FOR THE UNITED STATES ASSUMING THE CLAIM AGAINST MR. MOORE.