Today CCL filed an amicus curiae brief on behalf of the American Association for Justice, urging the Supreme Court to grant a Petition for Certiorari in a case challenging the immunity of the federal government from suit by active duty military personnel. Read v. United States, No. 13-505. Prior to deployment to Afghanistan, 19-year-old Airman 1st Class Colton Read was admitted to the Travis Air Force Base David Grant Medical Center, the Air Force’s “state-of-the-art,” 3,662-room facility, for routine laparoscopic gallbladder surgery. The inexperienced surgical resident accidentally punctured Read’s aorta, causing massive loss of blood. The supervising surgeon repaired the vessel, but blocked blood flow to Read’s legs. Several hours passed before Read was transferred by air to a civilian hospital. By that time, the damage to Airman Read’s legs was irreversible, and both were amputated.

Read and his wife filed suit under the Federal Tort Claims Act. The district court granted the government’s motion to dismiss based on an exception to the FTCA announced in Feres v. United States, 340 U.S. 135 (1950), for injuries to active duty military personnel that are “incident to” military service. The Fifth Circuit affirmed, observing that, although Feres has been widely criticized, the U.S. Supreme  Court has repeatedly upheld the immunity. The Reads filed a Petition for Certiorari.

AAJ filed an amicus brief authored by CCL Senior Counsel Jeffrey White supporting the Petition. The AAJ brief points out that the Court’s own shifting rationales for the immunity have resulted in inconsistent and unfair results. For example, if Read had been discharged from active duty just prior to surgery or if the same providers at the same facility had inflicted the same malpractice on Read’s spouse or child, the courthouse door would be open to their FTCA suit for damages. In addition, non-accountability removes an incentive for investing in improved care for service members. AAJ urged the Court to revisit and overturn the Feres doctrine, at least for claims of negligent medical care.