Supreme Court Rejects Petition to Challenge Feres Doctrine

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Members of the Armed Forces marching in camo and bootsEarlier this month, the Supreme Court of the United States rejected a petition to hear a wrongful death case that would have challenged the Feres doctrine. This nearly 70-year-old precedent bars American service members and their families from suing the U.S. government for injury or death caused by their military service. Opponents of the Feres doctrine who have been working to overturn Feres are saddened by this turn of events.

Unfortunately, our active duty servicemen and women are one of the few, if not only, groups of individuals that are forbidden from suing when they are the victim of medical malpractice at a military hospital. This is a huge injustice to those who risk their lives to preserve these exact freedoms and justice for others.

Background of the Petition

The petition was brought by the widower of Navy Lt. Rebekah Daniel, according to Task & Purpose. The article explains the Lt. Daniel died in March, 2014, from massive blood loss in the hours after giving birth at Naval Hospital Bremerton in Washington. Lt. Daniel was a Navy nurse stationed at the hospital at the time. Her husband and his attorneys later alleged that she died as a result of the medical team's failure to prevent postpartum hemorrhaging.

They wanted to bring their case all the way to the highest court in the land, but unfortunately, SCOTUS has refused the petition. That means Feres remains in place, and military service members have virtually no recourse against the federal government when negligence injures or kills them.

History of the Feres Doctrine

The Supreme Court of the United States set this precedent in 1950 with their decision in Feres vs. United States. In this case, the Court ruled that members of the Armed Forces could not hold the federal government liable for injuries "arising from activities incident to military service." It has since been broadly applied in many cases, including those like Lt. Daniel's, as well as sexual assault cases and other claims.

Unfortunately, the Feres precedent creates a separate set of rules for members of the Armed Forces. While we, as civilians, can pursue justice and necessary compensation from careless doctors and healthcare staff, these heroic men and women are barred from seeking those same forms of justice when the negligence originates from a government provider. It puts them at a startling disadvantage.

What To Do If You Suspect Medical Malpractice

At Whetstone Perkins & Fulda, our experienced attorneys believe passionately in fighting for medical malpractice victims. If you suspect you or a loved one has experienced this wrong, then you may have a case to pursue justice and compensation. For a complimentary consultation, please call us at 803-799-9400. We handle a wide array of medical negligence claims, including those related to medication errors, surgical errors, birth injuries and more.