Supreme Court May Review Law that Prevents Military Personnel from Suing for Medical Malpractice

Monday, April 25, 2011
Dean Patrick Witt
For more than 60 years, military personnel have been shielded from medical malpractice lawsuits. But that could end depending on what the U.S. Supreme Court decides to do with the case of former Air Force Sergeant Dean Patrick Witt.
Witt was pulled off life-support in 2003 following a botched anesthesia procedure that left him brain dead. He died January 9, 2004, at the age of 25. The nurse responsible for the mistake surrendered her state license, but Witt’s family was unable to sue the Air Force because of the Feres Doctrine. That precedent originated from a 1950 court case that ruled military medical mistakes were the same as battlefield injuries, making the armed services immune from civil litigation.
The Supreme Court is deciding whether it wants to hear the Witt case. If the court overturns the Feres Doctrine, the federal government could find itself facing billions of dollars in liability claims.
-Noel Brinkerhoff
Military Faces Challenge to Malpractice Shield (by Mitch Stacy, Associated Press)
Alexis Witt v. United States of America U.S. Court of Appeals for Ninth Circuit) (pdf)


End Feres Now 11 years ago
every time i see a post on the feres doctrine, it makes the hairs on the back of my neck stand up. be aware that feres also protects the us military from legal malpractice. while i was on active duty with the us army, i was threatened by a us army lawyer named captain matthew fitzgerald to do something which was contrary to the us army legal regulations (which i did not know at the time but he did). fitzgerald’s motive was to tout this as his first accomplishment on his annual performance report of which i later got a copy. this threat resulted in my losing over $50,000 of my personal funds. when i asked the top lawyer (now lieutenant general dana chipman) for assistance, the first thing they did was appoint fitzgerald’s previous boss and a very obvious friend to “investigate.” since there was no wrongdoing found as a result of this faux investigation but specifics were protected by the privacy act , i filed the same complaint with fitzgerald’s oregon state bar which is not protected under privacy laws. evidence showed that fitzgerald lied no less than 10 times to his oregon state bar. it was all thrown out of federal court due to feres although i had a slam-dunk case with all evidence in my favor. in fact, i was never even able to get into court and present my case. the judge simply had his law clerks cut-and-paste a previous reply to a previous case. just to add insult to my financial injury, fitzgerald got promoted to major. feres was never designed 60 years ago to protect against torts, corruption, misdeeds, and cover-ups by us army lawyers. today it protects against everything.
Fremer 11 years ago
my son michael fremer was killed at fort polk, la on 2/13/08 because of army negligence at the conclusion of a training exercise. the army can not be held accountable because of the feres doctrine. this law needs to be changed. why is the army exempt from being held accountable for negligence? our young men and woman are risking their lives. this is how our country treats the soldiers and the families? the military uses the feres doctrine to cover up and protect themselves against medical malpractice in the cases involving dean witt and carmel rodriguez. it also protects the military in cases involving marines being exposed to toxic chemicals on us bases on us soil. the military is exempt from being held accountable on all of these matters. the feres doctrine needs to be overturned so the military is held accountable.

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