Vanderbilt Journal of Transnational Law

First Page



The U.S. Global Positioning System (GPS) provides precise positioning information to anyone in the world, regardless of nationality, as long as they have access to an inexpensive receiver. However, in managing and providing the GPS for no charge, the United States may have opened itself to worldwide tort exposure. This Note analyzes U.S. liability for negligently operating the GPS under the Federal Tort Claims Act (FTCA) in four categories.

First, this Note examines the transformation of the GPS from its domestic military beginnings to its current role as the foremost radionavigation technique in history and as a vital tool to civilians across the world. Relying on historical data and the GPS's rapid expansion, this Note establishes how negligent GPS operation by the United States could harm a non-American outside of the United States.

Second, this Note addresses the applicability of the FTCA's foreign country exception to a lawsuit arising from negligent GPS operation. This second section argues that the foreign country exception should probably not prevent the lawsuit from progressing.

Third, this Note surveys and analyzes U.S. Supreme Court and U.S. Courts of Appeals caselaw to determine the applicability of the FTCA's discretionary function exception to this lawsuit. It then reveals the crucial issues relevant to a GPS lawsuit under the FTCA's discretionary function exception.

This Note concludes by stating that Congress should exempt the GPS from FTCA liability because of the devastating effect unparalleled global liability would have on the planet's preeminent navigational device.