Saturday, October 6, 2012

Supreme Court grants review to decide validity of a claim for battery as result of medical treatment by military doctor

Last week, the Supreme Court granted review in a case that will address an interesting and important issue on the possible liability of the United States for medical malpractice. 

In this case, called Levin v US, the Plaintiff-Appellant Steven Levin brought a claim for battery against the United States government and his United States Navy surgeon.  The US substituted itself for the doctor (as allowed by statute) and argued that the district court lacked jurisdiction because the Federal Torts Claims Act expressly preserves sovereign immunity against battery claims. The district court agreed and dismissed the battery claim.

Levin appealed to the Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit arguing that the district court had jurisdiction to hear his battery claim based on the statutory interplay between the FTCA and the Gonzalez Act (which provides immunity to military medical personnel).  The Court of Appeals disagreed and affirmed the lower court's ruling holding that § 1089(e) of the Gonzalez Act does not waive the government's sovereign immunity for common law battery claims.  The opinion is available here.

For updates on the Supreme Court's review process and links to all the relevant documents, go here.  The Pop-Tort has a comment about the case here.

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