Restrictions for military wrongful death suits

Sep 26, 2019 | Wrongful Death

Every day, brave men and women from Washington to Florida put their lives at risk to preserve American freedoms. However, when active military personnels die from instances related to wrongful death, family members may find their own freedoms restricted. This is due to the Feres ruling or Fores Doctrine in 1950 when the United States decided that it can not be held liable for the death or injury of active members of the military.

In 2018, NBC News reported that the surviving spouse of a Navy veteran attempted to get this ruling overturned. The woman who died worked as a labor and delivery nurse. However, when she went into delivery herself, she bled to death at the naval hospital where she served. Her baby girl lived.

Her surviving spouse, a Coast Guard veteran, alleges that he received no formal record of the incident and no notes related to the steps taken to save her life. His wrongful death suit in 2015 and all appeals that followed were dismissed. So, he decided to take the fight to the Supreme Court.

In 2019, military newspaper Stars and Stripes reported that the Supreme Court declined to hear the case that could have potentially overturned the Feres ruling. In the petition to the Supreme Court, the husband argued that the Fores Doctrine should not apply since his wife was not participating in activities related to her duties at the time of her death.

In spite of the Supreme Court’s refusal to hear his case, the veteran has not given up. He plans to keep pushing for Congress to overturn the rule, which some believed was wrongly decided and hurts service members and their families.