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AAJ Statement on Supreme Court Declining to Examine Feres Doctrine

Feres Denies Servicemembers Fundamental Rights Enjoyed by All Other Americans, Including Federal Prisoners

May 20,2019

Washington, DCThe following is a statement from American Association for Justice CEO Linda Lipsen following today’s Supreme Court decision to deny a petition for certiorari involving the wrongful death of Navy Lt. Rebekah Daniel. Lt. Daniel’s widower has been unable to seek justice for his loss because of the Feres Doctrine, established by a 1950 Supreme Court decision preventing active duty military from holding the government accountable for non-combat injuries sustained during service including medical malpractice:

“It’s disappointing that the Supreme Court has declined to examine how the constitutional rights of servicemembers are being undermined by the Feres Doctrine. This decision brings new urgency to the need for Congress to pass the Sfc. Richard Stayskal Military Medical Accountability Act of 2019, a new bipartisan bill that will restore basic legal rights for all active duty servicemembers so they can seek justice if they are injured as a result of preventable medical errors.

“Military health care providers have been immunized by Feres for far too long. Our servicemembers deserve better.”

The Supreme Court also denied a petition for certiorari from the families of Lt. Cmdr. Landon L. Jones and Chief Warrant Officer 3 Jonathan S. Gibson, who were lost at sea after attempting to land their helicopter on a destroyer in rough seas in 2013. The families asserted a claim for negligence against the government, but have been blocked from seeking justice because of Feres.

Carly Moore Sfregola
Phone: 202-684-9609