Feres Doctrine

Exceptions to the FTCA: The Feres Doctrine

While the Federal Tort Claims Act allows citizens to file suit against the federal government for injuries incurred as a result of the negligence of a government employee, this right is not without limitation. One of the most notable exceptions was established by the United States Supreme Court in the case of Feres v. United States, 340 U.S. 135 (1950). In Feres, the Court held that an active member of the armed services was prohibited from bringing a tort suit against the federal government because his injuries arose out of and in the course of activity incident to his military service. The rule laid down in Feres has become an ever expanding doctrine with far reaching implications. For example, active-duty military personnel who are admitted to a government hospital and injured as a result of medical malpractice may be barred by the Feres doctrine from bringing a tort claim against either the government hospital or the government doctor who caused their injury. Not surprisingly, the Feres doctrine creates many unfair and unjust circumstances, allowing the United States military to avoid responsibility for both negligence and sometimes even gross negligence where an active duty member of the armed services is injured or killed "incident to service."

Fortunately, however, there are exceptions to the Feres doctrine which  limit its application. For example, it typically does not apply to claims brought by military spouses, dependents, retired military personnel or other non-active duty military for injuries they suffered as a result of the negligence of the United States or its employees in cases such as automobile accidents, burn injuries, motorcycle accidents, etc. For example, we recently handled a claim for an active duty member of the military who was struck by an automobile while a pedestrian on a military base. We were able to circumvent the Feres Doctrine and make a full recovery for our client. 

The lawyers at Burnside Law Firm have experience representing military spouses, dependents, retirees, and other non-active duty military personnel in claims against the United States government under the FTCA, including claims against Eisenhower Army Medical Center at Fort Gordon, Georgia and the Veteran's Administration Hospital in Augusta, Georgia.

To learn more about the scope of the Feres Doctrine or the process of filing an FTCA claim against the United States, you should contact a lawyer at Burnside Law Firm LLP for a free initial consultation. We fight hard to obtain the compensation our clients need and deserve.

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