B-129677 October 22, 1957

B-129677: Oct 22, 1957

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000 for personal injuries alleged to have been sustained by bar as the result of her tripping at about 7:45 A.M. The District authorities are reported to have denied liability for the amount claimed because the part of the sidewalk where the injury is alleged to have occurred is within the building line on property the fee-simple title to which is in the United States and. It is further understood that Mrs. Such claim was denied on the basis that the injury did not occur while in performances of official duty but as the result of falling on a public sidewalk in coming to work. That she believes the General Accounting Office is authorized to decide whether the Governments of the District of Columbia or the United States are legally responsible in this matter.

B-129677 October 22, 1957

Honorable John F. Kennedy United States Senate

Dear Senator Kennedy:

This refers to your letter of September 5, 1957, with enclosurers, regarding the claim of Mrs. Florence B. Morrill, 4309 13th Street, N.E., Washington, D.C., in the amount of 41,000 for personal injuries alleged to have been sustained by bar as the result of her tripping at about 7:45 A.M., on May 16, 1956, on a defect in the sidewalk outside the General Accounting Office Building.

The enclosure accompanying your letter disclose that Mrs. Morrill's attorney made claim on her behalf against the District of Columbia. The District authorities are reported to have denied liability for the amount claimed because the part of the sidewalk where the injury is alleged to have occurred is within the building line on property the fee-simple title to which is in the United States and, therefore, and under authority of the Federal Tort Claims Act (28 U.S.O. 2672), the attorney made claim aginst the United States through its agent, the General Service Administration, as the agency exercising all functions concerning the operation, maintenance, and custody of the General Accounting Office building and surrounding grounds. That agency in a letter dated March 13, 1957, to Mrs. Morrill also disclaimed liability for the damages on the ground that responsiblity for the maintenance, care and upkeep of sidewalks, including the duty to keep sidewalks in a state of repair so as not to cause damage or injury to those properly using same, rests with the District of Columbia raather than with the Federl Government. It is further understood that Mrs. Morrill filed claim in the matter with the Bureau of Employees' Compensation, Department of Labor, but such claim was denied on the basis that the injury did not occur while in performances of official duty but as the result of falling on a public sidewalk in coming to work.

It appears from Mrs. Morrill's letter of September 3, 1957, to you, that she believes the General Accounting Office is authorized to decide whether the Governments of the District of Columbia or the United States are legally responsible in this matter.

No jurisdiction is vested in the General Accounting Office to entertain or settle a claim for amounts alleged to be due from the District of Columbia. See 1 Comp. Gen. 451 and 1 B.C. Code 1951 ed., 902, 904. Similarly, while the cited tort claims statute, authorizes the head of each Federal agency to consider and settle otherwise proper claims against the United States for money damages of $1,000 or less for injury or loss of property caused by the negligent set or omission of any of its employees, it does not vest in the General Accounting Office any jurisdiction to settle tort claims arising in, or out of the responsibilities of, either Government agencies and it is well established that the accounting officers are without jurisdiction to settle tort claims arising out of the responsibilities of other Government agencies. United States v. Clay Products Co., 68 F. Supp. 902.

Since we have no jurisdiction over Mrs. Morrill's claim, and the two Governmental agencies which possibly could be considered to have responsibility for the proper maintenance of the sidewalk where the accident is alleged to have occurred are reported to have refused to allow her claim, we feel sure you will understand why we must decline to express an opinion concerning its merits. In this connection, we have been informally advised by a resprentative of the Corporation Counsel's Office of the District of Columbia that federal action has not, as yet, been taken ty the District on the subject claim.

Mrs. Morrill, of course, is privileged to have settled in court such rights, if any, as she may have in the matter. See U.S.C. Sections 134 (b), 2401 and 2675.

The enclosures forwarded with your letter are returned herewith.

Sincerely yours,

JOSEPH CAMPBELL Comptroller General of the United States