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Air Force Airman Files Medical Malpractice Lawsuit Challenging Feres Doctrine

Written By:  Richard N. Shapiro, Esq.

Shapiro, Lewis, & Appleton

Virginia Beach, Virginia

The brave men and women who serve in our military risk their lives to provide protection to all Americans in the U.S. and overseas. It hardly seems fair that the U.S. government fails to protect them when they need it most – when they have been injured.

In the 1950s, the federal government instituted the Feres Doctrine, which prohibits service members from taking legal action against the government for any injuries they sustain. This even unjustly includes injuries caused by errors made by doctors, nurses, and other medical personnel at VA hospitals and other medical facilities provided by the government to those serving in the military. Numerous people have challenged this unfair, outdated doctrine, but no one has yet to be successful in having it overturned.

The most recent service member to file a medical malpractice lawsuit against the federal government is an airman from the Air Force in Texas. On July 9, 2009, he was wheeled into the operating room at David Grant Medical Center on the Travis Air Force Base in California to have his gall bladder removed. During the surgery, his aorta was cut by one of the doctors, causing him to eventually lose two-thirds of the blood in his body. After nine hours of trying to remedy the situation, the military hospital finally sent him to a civilian hospital. Unfortunately, due to the military medical staff’s negligence and poor judgment, the victim had to have both of his legs amputated. A medical malpractice attorney has filed a lawsuit on his behalf, once again challenging the Feres Doctrine that the federal government hides behind this type of situation. The lawsuit is asking for over $50 million in damages for the victim and his wife.

While this most recent case is based in Texas, it is still very relevant to the large number of service members and their families that live in Virginia who are also unfairly penalized by this doctrine. Hopefully this case will bring about the abolishment of, or at least a significant change in the unjust Feres Doctrine.

Although taking on the federal government may seem like a hopeless case, there are times when the Feres Doctrine does not apply, such as when a family member of a military person is a victim of medical malpractice at a VA hospital. If you find yourself in this type of situation, be sure to contact an experienced Virginia medical malpractice attorney who has extensive knowledge on this topic before deciding whether or not to take legal action.

About the Editors: The VA-NC medical malpractice attorneys at Shapiro, Lewis & Appleton include medical and surgical malpractice lawyers licensed in both Virginia and Carolina. Our medical/hospital malpractice focus on personal injury and accident law and have experience handling medical malpractice cases involving hospital and doctors’ mistakes, as well as nursing home abuse and neglect. Check out our case results to see our track record of success in medical malpractice lawsuits, and also be sure to read our free medical malpractice reports Top 10 Tips From a Medical Malpractice Insider andTop 5 Surgical Errors. Rick Shapiro and James Lewis have been listed among the Best Lawyers in America since 2008. They, along with fellow attorney Randy Appleton, have also been named Virginia Super Lawyers since 2010, an honor fewer than 5 percent of outstanding attorneys receive.

For more information about Shapiro, Lewis & Appleton, please visit or the International Society of Primerus Law Firms.

To learn more about Rick Shapiro, VA Medical Malpractice Attorney, please click here

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