The fictional Angus MacGyver’s defining talent is his ability to cobble together a solution when the precise tools he needs to solve a problem are not available.1 As “Mac” has explained, “If you don’t have the right equipment for the job, you just have to make it yourself.” MacGyver: Out in the Cold (ABC television broadcast Feb. 16, 1987). So synonymous with improvising has the name “MacGyver” become that the Oxford Dictionaries added the name to their collection as a verb meaning to “[m]ake or repair (an object) in an improvised or inventive way, making use of whatever items are at hand.” https://premium.oxforddictionaries.com/us/definition/american_english/macgyver.
The Federal Tort Claims Act’s (“FTCA”) directive making the federal government liable “in the same manner and to the same extent as a private individual under like circumstances,” 28 U.S.C. § 2674, requires courts to MacGyver a remedy in fashioning tort-damages awards against the United States, where the unique aspects of the federal government make it difficult or impossible to strictly apply a state damages statute to the government. In those situations, courts must approximate the statutory remedy as closely as they can to achieve the ends required by the FTCA.
Here, we review the district court’s efforts in improvising application of Florida’s medical-malpractice-damages statute, section 768.78(2) of the Florida Statutes, to Appellant-Cross-Appellee United States. Following a bench trial, the United States was held liable upon the district court’s finding that a doctor at a federal health facility caused Plaintiffs-Appellees-Cross-Appellants’ son E.R.T., Jr. (“E.R.T.”), to suffer severe and life-altering injuries at the time of his birth. On appeal, the government challenges the district court’s application of section 768.78(2) to the method of payment the district court chose for the government to satisfy the judgment against it. Plaintiffs, meanwhile, cross-appeal the district court’s jerry-rigging of section 768.78(2)’s bond requirement as the court found it pertains to the United States. The district court did an admirable job of MacGyvering a solution in this case, and we affirm much of what it did. Nevertheless, for the reasons that follow, we must reverse discrete portions of the district court’s judgment and remand for further proceedings consistent with this opinion.
1. Angus MacGyver is the lead character in the television series MacGyver, a show that centers on MacGyver’s use of scientific knowledge to solve problems and to extricate himself and his team members from danger. The original version of MacGyver, starring Richard Dean Anderson, ran from 1985 through 1992. MacGyver(original), IMDb, https://www.imdb.com/title/tt0088559/?ref_=nv_sr_2 (last visited Aug. 13, 2018). In 2016, the series was rebooted, this time with Lucas Till playing the name character. MacGyver (reboot), IMDb, https://www.imdb.com/title/tt1399045/?ref_=nv_sr_1 (last visited Aug. 13, 2018).
Saturday, August 18, 2018
“If you don’t have the right equipment for the job, you just have to make it yourself.”
What does that MacGyver quote have to do with the FTCA? CA11 Judge Rosenbaum, known for her awesome intros, is here to tell you: