Maryland Court Discusses Medical Malpractice Claims by Service Members

The federal government owns and operates several medical facilities in Maryland. Doctors who work for the federal government are held to the same standard of care as other practitioners. As such, they can generally be held liable for medical malpractice if they deviate from the standard and subsequently cause their patients harm. There are exceptions to the general rule, however, as demonstrated in a recent Maryland opinion in which the court affirmed the dismissal of the plaintiff’s claim as it found it occurred as a result of his military service. If you suffered harm at a federal facility, it is wise to meet with a Baltimore medical malpractice lawyer to evaluate your rights.

History of the Case

It is reported that the plaintiff underwent spinal surgery at a government hospital. The procedure was performed by military doctors, as he was a member of the military. Tragically, the plaintiff suffered life-altering complications, including a spinal injury, decubitus ulcers, and deep venous thrombosis, that caused permanent harm and required extensive treatment. The defendant subsequently commenced a medical malpractice claim against the federal government, pursuant to the Federal Tort Claims Act.

Allegedly, despite being on inactive status in the Air National Guard at the time of the surgery, the plaintiff had not been discharged from the military, nor was he on leave substantially similar to discharged or veteran status. The court found this status sufficient to bring the plaintiff’s injuries under the purview of the Feres doctrine. As such, the court dismissed the plaintiff’s claims for lack of subject matter jurisdiction. The plaintiff appealed.

The Feres Doctrine in the Context of Medical Malpractice Claims

On appeal, the court affirmed the trial court ruling.  The Feres doctrine, stemming from the 1950 U.S. Supreme Court case Feres v. United States, establishes that the United States government is generally immune from tort liability for injuries to members of the military that arise out of or are in the course of activity “incident to service.” In other words, members of the military cannot generally sue the government for injuries that occur as a result of their military service.

The court explained that Feres applied to a servicemember on excess leave pending discharge because the injury occurred as a result of medical treatment by military doctors. As such, the court conclusively determined that the injury was “incident to service.” Additionally, the court noted the breadth of the Feres doctrine, stating that it encompasses injuries related to military service, even remotely.

As a result, the court affirmed the trial court’s dismissal of the plaintiff’s claims.

Talk to a Skilled Maryland Medical Malpractice Attorney

If you were injured due to the negligence of your healthcare provider, you may be owed damages, and you should talk to an attorney regarding what claims you may be able to pursue. The skilled Baltimore medical malpractice lawyers at Arfaa Law Group can assess your harm and aid you in pursuing the maximum compensation available. To set up a meeting, you can reach us through our online form or by calling (410) 889-1850.

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