Monday, May 17, 2021

Justice Clarence Thomas again affirms the Court should get rid of the Feres doctrine

In Feres v US, the US Supreme Court expanded the interpretation of one of the exception to the Federal Torts Claims Act resulting in a ban on any claim for any injury suffered while the plaintiff is in military 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. The debate over whether the Feres Doctrine should be abandoned has raged ever since.  For all the stories I have published over the years on the Feres Doctrine, go here.)

Recently, Justice Thomas has repeatedly argued that Feres should be overruled.  He did so in 2019 in a dissent from a cert petition (see here); and he did so again earlier this month.  

In yet another dissent from a cert petition Justice Thomas argued should have agreed to hear the appeal of a West Point cadet who sued claiming she was raped by another cadet.  

Justice Thomas opined that Feres v. United States was wrongly decided because the decision was not based on the wording of the Federal Tort Claims Act.  The exception in the Act was meant to protect the government from suits “arising out of … combatant activities … during time of war” but Feres extended that notion by recognizing immunity from suits in any way incident to military service.

The case is called Doe v. United States and you can read Justice Thomas' opinion here.

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