Sunday, May 19, 2019

Another attempt to eliminate (at least part of) the Feres Doctrine

As you might remember from your first semester Tort Law class, the Feres Doctine refers to the interpretation given by the Supreme Court in a case called Feres v US to an exception to the Federal Torts Claims Act.  According to the exception, members of the military can not sue the federal government for injuries suffered while in active duty.  In Feres, the Court expanded the interpretation of the exception to essentially ban any claim for any injury under any circumstances while the plaintiff was in service (active or otherwise).  This has resulted in findings that members of the military can't sue for injuries caused by medical personnel, for example.

This is a controversial doctrine, and there have been many calls to eliminate it.  But all the attempts to do so have failed.

The TortsProf blog is now reporting that there is a new push afoot.

A bipartisan bill that would overrule the Feres Doctrine has been introduced in the House of Representatives.  The bill would create an exemption to the Federal Tort Claims Act to allow plaintiffs to file medical malpractice lawsuits for injuries that occur after the bill's passage.  However, the bill would have no impact on those instances of medical malpractice that occur during combat operations, aboard ships, or at battalion aid stations. 

For more information on the debate related to the Feres Doctrine, you can watch this old video.  And for some of my posts on it go here, herehere, and here.

Interestingly, the Feres Doctrine is also an underlying issue in the new TV Show "The Code", in which the widow of a member of the Marines sued for wrongful death.  During the episode (episode 3, which you can watch here), a few of the characters talked about it and their explanation was actually pretty accurate.  I think the producers got a good legal consultant to help with the script.

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