Feres Doctrine Prevents Birth Injury Compensation for Military

A recent birth injury lawsuit is igniting debate about a federal law that limits government liability for injuries to military members. The Feres Doctrine became law in 1950. It prohibits military members and veterans from suing the federal government for injuries that occur during active duty. The doctrine is named for Lieutenant Feres, who died in a barracks fire that occurred in 1946. His widow attempted to sue the government, but lost. The creation of the Feres Doctrine shortly followed.

Controversy has always surrounded the law, and its lack of consideration in cases of gross negligence by a medical professional. Some of the situations covered include:

Prescription of incorrect medications
Medical mistakes Wrongful execution of a service member
Nuclear experimentation on service members
Medical experimentation of mind control techniques
Birth Injury Lawsuit

Military Times is reporting about an incident in 2009, when an air force captain arrived at an army hospital for a scheduled cesarean section. Though her medical records clearly report an allergy to specific heartburn medication, the medical staff allegedly gives it to her anyway. She was also given Benadryl in an attempt to counter her allergic reaction. The result was a significant drop in her blood pressure.

According to court documents, doctors failed to adequately monitor the condition of the baby and the effects of the mother’s hypotension. The baby was allegedly deprived of oxygen, resulting in brain damage, cerebral palsy and other serious disabilities. She reportedly needs 24-hour medical care. When the father tried to sue the government for compensation, a district court dismissed the matter, referencing the Feres Doctrine. He appealed the decision to the Circuit Court of Appeals, but the district court ruling was upheld.

In the court’s decision, Judge Timothy Tymkovich stated, “Under [Feres}, federal courts lose their subject matter jurisdiction over claims like this because we conclude the injured child’s in utero injuries are unmistakably derivative of an injury to her mother… To be sure, the facts here exemplify the overbreadth (and unfairness) of the doctrine, but Feres is not ours to overrule.”

The mother’s status as an active duty member of the air force is what triggered the application of Feres. Had her husband been active duty and she a military dependent, Feres likely would not have applied and the family would have possibly received monetary damages from the federal government. The family is reportedly asking for consideration by the United States Supreme Court.

Birth Injuries in Military Hospitals

The potential consequences of this doctrine are even more disturbing when you consider the rate of birth injuries in military hospitals. According to reports, a Pentagon review found that the average number of birth injuries in military hospitals is double the national average. Under the Feres Doctrine, many of these families may not be receiving the compensation they deserve.

If your baby was injured when the physician failed to properly diagnose or treat a medical condition, contact the experienced birth injury attorneys of Levin & Perconti today at (877) 374-1417 for a free consultation.

See Related Blog Posts:

Jury Awards $4 Million for Pre-Term Tragedy

The Misdiagnosis of an Ectopic Pregnancy

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