Affected Families Push the Supreme Court to Reconsider “Feres” Doctrine

Normally, when a patient is injured due to negligent medical care provided by a doctor, surgeon, or nurse, the injured patient is able to bring a medical malpractice lawsuit against the allegedly negligent medical professional, seeking damages for what they have been through. However, under an old legal doctrine called the “Feres” doctrine, military personnel can be denied the ability to recover damages based on injuries they sustained while on active duty.

The Feres Doctrine

The doctrine was first announced in the case of Feres v. United States, which was a United States Supreme Court case decided back in 1950. The case actually combined three individuals’ cases and decided them in one written opinion. The Court was able to do this because each case presented a similar legal issue:  whether the United States government could be held liable for injuries suffered by active military personnel while they were on active duty.

The Court ultimately determined that the government should not be held liable for any injuries that were caused, even if the injuries were caused by a government official’s own negligence. The rationale behind the opinion is that the government should be more worried about big-picture concerns in times of war rather than worried about avoiding potential liability for the actions of its officials. While the basis for the decision arguably makes sense in some spur-of-the-moment battlefield decisions, it has recently been applied to situations that seemingly stray from the heart of the doctrine’s rationale.

The Feres Doctrine Was Used to Deny a Mother’s Birth Injury Claim

A federal appellate court recently denied a mother’s claim against the United States government based on the Feres doctrine. According to one national news source, the mother, an active-duty service member, was scheduled to give birth in a military hospital. Prior to the delivery of her baby, the mother was given medication to which she had a known allergy. As a result of the initial error, the woman was then provided with an antihistamine, which was supposed to help with the allergic reaction. However, the antihistamine also decreased the woman’s blood pressure, resulting in a critical lack of oxygen to her child. Ultimately, the child was born with a severe birth injury, including brain and nerve damage. The child also requires the use of braces to walk.

The court dismissed the case based on the Feres doctrine, explaining that the woman’s injury was directly related to her military service. However, the woman has asked the United States Supreme Court to review the case, arguing that the use of the Feres doctrine has grown beyond its intended scope.

Have You Been the Victim of a Government Official’s Negligence?

If you or a loved one has recently been involved in any kind of accident involving a government employee, you may be entitled to monetary compensation for your injuries. However, the fact that the named defendant in the lawsuit is a government entity will likely have an impact on the litigation. Even if government immunity does not apply, other limitations or procedural obstacles may. Call 410-654-3600 to set up a free consultation with a dedicated Washington, D.C. personal injury attorney to discuss your case.

More Blog Posts:

Slip-and-Fall Plaintiff’s Case Against Federal Government Allowed To Proceed, Despite Immunity Claims, Washington DC Injury Lawyer Blog, January 19, 2016

Dangerous Products and Product Liability Lawsuits, Washington DC Injury Lawyer Blog, January 12, 2016

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