Will v. Hallock

546 U.S. 345 (2005)


P owned a computer software business that she operated from home. Her husband’s credit card was stolen and used to pay for child pornography. Customs Service Agents (Ds) got a warrant to search P’s residence. They seized computer equipment, software, and disk drives. No criminal charges were ever brought. When the computer equipment was returned, several of the disk drives were damaged, all of the stored data (including trade secrets and account files) were lost, and Ps were forced out of business. P brought an action against the United States under the Federal Tort Claims Act, invoking the waiver of sovereign immunity, 28 U.S.C. § 1346. The District Court granted the Government’s motion to dismiss, holding that Ds' activities occurred in the course of detaining goods and thus fell within an exception to the Act’s waiver of sovereign immunity, §2680(e). P also filed an action against Ds under Bivens alleging that the agents had damaged her computers and thus deprived her of property including business income in violation of the Due Process Clause of the Fifth Amendment. Ds moved for judgment in the Bivens action, citing the judgment bar of the Tort Claims Act. The District Court denied the motion, holding that dismissal of the action against the Government under the Tort Claims Act was solely on a procedural ground, and thus failed to raise the judgment bar. The Court of Appeals affirmed, after first finding jurisdiction under the collateral order doctrine. The Supreme Court granted certiorari to consider the judgment bar.