Will Military Service Members Ever Be Able To Successfully Sue for Medical Malpractice?

Men and women across the nation continue to suffer tragic instances of medical malpractice, including those who dedicate their lives to serve our country. However, although most citizens can seek justice in the courts when medical mistakes happen, military personnel and their families are barred from such right.

However, change may be on the horizon. Our medical malpractice lawyers are encouraged by a case that is currently pending in a federal court in Florida. This malpractice case involves an active Navy member and his late wife, who formerly served in the Navy herself. The woman eventually died of a brain hemorrhage due to alleged negligence by military hospital staff.

However, under the Federal Tort Claims Act (FTCA) of 1946, active military personnel cannot sue military doctors or hospitals for malpractice. The doctrine asks two questions: was the service member on active duty when the injury occurred? And was medical treatment “incident to service?” If so, the service member is barred from filing a malpractice claim for money damages. This means that the men and women serving our country are shockingly barred from a critical right that all other civilians possess. Therefore, a civilian struck by an army truck is entitled for compensation but a soldier on an army post hit by an army truck cannot do the same.

This Act has been re-examined several times over the years and the government has agreed to settle dozens of military medical malpractice claims. Most recently, the government agreed to pay over $2 million to an army staff sergeant who filed a malpractice claim on behalf of his wife, who died at an army hospital near Fort Campbell after doctors failed to properly screen her for rectal cancer.

Another military malpractice case was recently brought by the parents of Elijah Price, both on active duty when their son was born at a Jacksonville naval hospital. Sadly, Elijah lived only an hour due to alleged negligence by naval hospital staff. The government tried to argue that the law barred the suit because the child was born “incident” to his mother and father’s military service duties. This case is still pending before a U.S. District Judge.

There is a lot at stake depending on the outcome of these pending military malpractice cases. An entirely new legal standard could be introduced, and there is also a lot of government money at risk. These cases will likely reach the Supreme Court and pave the way for an entirely new system of justice for military service members and their families.

Our medical negligence attorneys at Pintas & Mullins Law Firm will continue to closely follow the developments as these cases proceed. The rights of all citizens, including the men and women who serve our country, deserve to be protected. Most medical mistakes are entirely preventable, and negligent hospitals and doctors need to be held responsible to order to prevent widespread harm.

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