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AAJ Applauds Inclusion of Several Key Civil Justice Provisions in NDAA

Association Urges Conference Committee to Maintain Critical Protection for Servicemembers

July 12,2019

Washington, DC — The American Association for Justice (AAJ) applauds the inclusion of key civil justice provisions in the House-passed National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA). The bill repeals the “Feres Doctrine” for medical malpractice for active-duty military, and prohibits enforcement of forced arbitration clauses and class action waivers for servicemembers when their rights are violated under the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act (SCRA) and the Uniform Services Employment and Reemployment Act (USERRA).

“We are pleased the House of Representatives included these provisions in the NDAA that will empower our military men and women to seek justice when they are physically and financially harmed,” said AAJ CEO Linda Lipsen. “These provisions finally loosen the grip of forced arbitration to allow our servicemembers to benefit from the protections of SCRA and USERRA, and fix the outdated Feres Doctrine to allow active-duty military to hold the government accountable for preventable medical errors.”

An outdated Supreme Court decision from 1950 established the Feres Doctrine, which prevents active-duty servicemembers from holding the government accountable for injuries, including medical malpractice. Language included in the NDAA restores their right to hold the U.S. Government accountable for such injuries, a right available to all U.S. citizens (including federal prisoners) but not active-duty military.

Another key provision addresses the plight of servicemembers forced into arbitration. Forced arbitration imposed by corporations currently overrules laws passed by Congress to protect military men and women like SCRA and USERRA. Language in the House-passed NDAA, however, will give these laws their teeth back by allowing the servicemembers to hold corporations responsible when they are financially harmed and bring their employers to court for employment discrimination due to their military service.

“Today was an important step forward in protecting the rights of servicemembers, and we will continue fighting to ensure that these provisions are maintained by the conference committee,” concluded Lipsen.

Also included in the NDAA was a provision to designate Perfluoroalkyl Substance (PFAS), a harmful chemical, as a hazardous substance under the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA). This would allow the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to require parties causing PFAS contamination to pay for cleanup efforts or release federal funds to do so.

Carly Moore Sfregola
Phone: 202-684-9609