The Military Times reported the Supreme Court’s 1950 Feres decision has prevented active-duty troops from suing for injuries due to malpractice in military medical facilities, but now “government lawyers in Florida are seeking to expand that restriction to include the spouses and children of service members.” Jimmy German, an active-duty Navy mechanic, sued when the Jacksonville Naval Hospital failed to diagnose his wife’s soon-to-be fatal cerebral hemorrhage, but the government is seeking dismissal, saying under the Feres doctrine, whether or not Navy doctors committed medical errors, “troops should not be allowed to sue for negligent care provided to their dependents.” Although the government has settled many cases involving injured military family members, this new interpretation, according to George Washington University Law School professor Jonathan Turley “is a very clear effort to establish the rule that children and spouses are equally barred from tort recovery from negligence.”
Similarly, The Atlantic reported that “federal lawyers in court are now quietly trying to expand the US government’s legal immunity from exposure to medical malpractice claims” by military families. It notes that the same federal judge hearing the German case is scheduled to hear another medical malpractice case involving the Jacksonville naval hospital, over the death of the newborn son of a pair of active duty military personnel. There the government argues that the birth “was ‘incident’ to his parents’ military service, thus subject to Feres immunity, and that the case must be dismissed long before trial.” The plaintiffs’ lawyer in both cases “suggested the new argument seeking to bar lawsuits linked to dependents may be an effort to reduce government spending.”
From the American Association for Justice press release.