Under current federal law, known as the Feres Doctrine, members of the military who suffer injury due to another federal employee’s actions or inactions cannot file a lawsuit under the Federal Tort Claims Act. Practically speaking, this prevents members of the military from suing military doctors for injuries sustained as a result of medical negligence. A bi-partisan piece of legislation, however, seeks to change this.
Introduced by Senators Mazie Hirono (HI) and John Kennedy (LA), is a bill known as the SFC Richard Stayskal Military Medical Accountability Act of 2019. This act would “amend chapter 171 of title 28, United States Code, to allow suit against the United States for injuries and deaths of members of the Armed Forces of the United States caused by improper medical care, and for other purposes.” Simply stated, if passed, this would overturn the Feres Doctrine and allow members of the military to sue for medical malpractice.
The bill is named after SFC Stayskal who was diagnosed with stage IV lung cancer in June 2017. After having issues breathing, SFC Stayskal sought medical treatment at Womack Army Medical Center at Fort Bragg, North Carolina. The doctors at Womack Army made a diagnosis of pneumonia and sent him home. Four months later, after continuing to have breathing problems, SFC Stayskal sought treatment from a civilian doctor. During this visit, the civilian doctor reviewed the original scan performed at Womack Army Medical Center and immediately noticed a mass in SFC Stayskal’s lung. The civilian doctor ordered another scan, but by this time the tumor had doubled in size and spread to his other organs. Despite this glaring mistake, SFC Stayskal was unable to pursue a claim against the physicians at Womack Army Medical Center for their medical negligence because of the Feres Doctrine.
If the new proposed legislation passes, members of the military would be authorized to file suit against the Department of Defense for negligent or wrongful acts or omissions in the performance of medical, dental, or related health care functions—including clinical studies and investigations. The bill is currently in the Senate, where it will need bipartisan support to pass and make its way to the President’s desk.
Please do not attempt to determine if you have a compensable case. You must consult an attorney who has the expertise and extensive knowledge necessary to determine who ultimately caused the harm and injuries you or a loved one suffered. Contact us for a free case evaluation here.