Fort Wayne Indiana Personal Injury Lawyer and Attorney Blog

What is The Feres Doctrine?

Did you know that military hospitals and health professionals cannot be sued for medical malpractice or negligence by military personnel during the performance of their duties?

Due to a Supreme Court decision in 1950 known as the Feres Doctrine, military hospitals and health professionals are exempt from medical malpractice lawsuits and medical malpractice liability from military personnel.

This means that military service members are barred from collecting damages from the United States Government for any personal injuries experienced while performing their duty. Additionally, the families of service members are also barred from filing lawsuits for wrongful death or loss of consortium when a loved one is injured or killed.

The Feres Doctrine has been challenged several times since it’s inception, but no one has been successful in overturning the law. In June of 2011, the Supreme Court dealt the latest blow to Feres Doctrine opponents by refusing to hear the medical malpractice case of Staff Sgt. Dean Witt who was the victim of errors made during a routine appendectomy at an Air Force hospital on October 10, 2003. He died 3 months later on January 9, 2004.

Witt’s family cannot sue for their loss due to the Feres Doctrine, but will continue to fight to amend the doctrine to allow military personnel and their families to purse damages for gross negligence that lead to injuries or death.

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However, the Feres Doctrine does not prevent spouses and dependents of military personnel who are injured or killed due to the negligence of military hospitals and medical professionals from filing a medical malpractice lawsuit.

This can be seen in the case of Master Sgt. Thomas Rutledge’s wife Deborah Rutledge who was disabled when the Andersen Air Force Base clinic on Guam failed to diagnose a herniated spinal disk for several weeks in 2004. Deborah was awarded $7.5 million.

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If you believe that you or a loved may be the victim of medical malpractice, give The Sweeney Law Firm a call to find out your legal rights. The Sweeney Law Firm offers free consultations. You will never pay any attorney fees or case expenses unless we obtain a financial recovery in your legal case.