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Supreme Court refuses to hear yet another challenge to the controversial Feres Doctrine on military medical malpractice
The Supreme Court on Monday denied a petition to hear a wrongful death case involving the controversial Feres Doctrine — a major blow to advocates seeking to undo the 69-year-old legal rule that bars U.S. service members and their families from suing the government for injury or death deemed to have been brought on by military service.
The petition was brought by Walter Daniel, the widower of Navy Lt. Rebekah "Moani" Daniel, who died during labor on March 9, 2014. A Navy nurse stationed at Naval Hospital Bremerton in Washington, Rebekah gave birth to her daughter Victoria at the facility where she worked before dying from blood loss less than four hours later, as Task & Purpose previously reported.
In court documents, Daniel and his attorneys alleged that the care team failed to prevent postpartum hemorrhaging, which caused Rebekah to lose "more than 1,500 ml of blood — nearly one-third of the amount of blood in the average human body," according to an Oct. 11, 2018 statement put out by the Luvera Law Firm representing Daniel.
"Sadly, the justice system remains closed to our family, our colleagues and the families who commit their lives to military service," Daniel said in an email statement to Task & Purpose.
Established in 1950 in Feres vs. United States — a case involving the Federal Tort Claims Act that allows citizens to sue the government — the Supreme Court ruled that the federal government could not be held liable "for injuries to members of the armed forces arising from activities incident to military service."
In the decades since that decision, Feres has been broadly applied to cases far outside the battlefield, from military sexual assault to training incidents, to allegations of command negligence, and military medical malpractice.
The Feres Doctrine is a Supreme Court precedent, and as such it can only be changed in two ways: through Congress, in the form of legislation amending the Federal Tort Claims Act (recently a bipartisan bill was introduced to do just that); or by overturning the initial Supreme Court decision, which Daniel and his attorneys aimed to do with their case.
Because of the Feres Doctrine, Daniel was left with little legal recourse after his wife's death; his only chance to move his lawsuit forward rested in the nation's highest court. In 2015, he took the first in a series of lengthy legal steps to get there by filing a wrongful death claim, but the case was immediately dismissed.
Next, Daniel's case went before the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, and though the ruling was upheld, the judge offered a strongly-worded critique of the Feres Doctrine.
"Lieutenant Daniel served honorably and well, ironically professionally trained to render the same type of care that led to her death," wrote Michael Daly Hawkins, the judge who presided over the case. "If ever there were a case to carve out an exception to the Feres doctrine, this is it. But only the Supreme Court has the tools to do so."
Rebekah "Moani" Daniel and her husband Walter Daniel. (Walter Daniel/Luvera Law Firm)
In October 2018, Daniel and his attorneys submitted a petition to the Supreme Court to have their case heard in the hopes of challenging, and potentially overturning Feres. The last time a Feres doctrine petition went before the Supreme Court was in 2016, as Patricia Kime reported for Military.com. Those hopes to have Daniel's case overturn the legal rule in the nation's highest court were dashed with the May 20 announcement that the petition was denied.
"The United States Supreme Court missed a clear opportunity to reexamine Feres, especially considering the sea change that has occurred since the court last addressed its bearing on medical malpractice cases seven decades ago," Andy Hoyal, one of Daniel's attorneys said in an emailed statement to Task & Purpose.
"The legal underpinnings supporting this doctrine have eroded and shifted," he added. "The mission and nature of the Military Health System itself has been completely transformed. Our military personnel live and serve in a completely different world than when Feres was adopted, and it's tragic that their legal rights have failed to keep pace."
In the Supreme Court decision, Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Clarence Thomas noted that they would have heard the case, and Thomas submitted a dissenting opinion on the Court's decision to refuse the petition.
"I write again to point out the unintended consequences of this Court's refusal to revisit Feres," Thomas wrote. "Such unfortunate repercussions — denial of relief to military personnel and distortions of other areas of law to compensate — will continue to ripple through our jurisprudence as long as the Court refuses to reconsider Feres."
The controversy around the Feres Doctrine stems from what many consider a double standard: one set of rules for civilians, and another for service members. For example, if a military dependent and a service member went to the same on-base hospital, got the same care for the same ailments, and the same mistakes were made in each case, the law would treat them quite differently. The civilian could sue, and the service member could not.
"Our case and our fight is over — but it continues for other service members," Daniel said in a statement. "Moani's story has generated a groundswell of momentum to correct the injustice of Feres, and now this issue is going all the way to Capitol Hill. I support the efforts of legislators, military and veterans' organizations, and others who are committed to revising our laws to give service members the rights they deserve."
Moments before Army Staff Sgt. David Bellavia went back into the house, journalist Michael Ware said he was "pacing like a caged tiger ... almost like he was talking to himself."
"I distinctly remember while everybody else had taken cover temporarily, there out in the open on the street — still exposed to the fire from the roof — was David Bellavia," Ware told Task & Purpose on Monday. "David stopped pacing, he looked up and sees that the only person still there on the street is me. And I'm just standing there with my arms folded.
"He looked up from the pacing, stared straight into my eyes, and said 'Fuck it.' And I stared straight back at him and said 'Fuck it,'" Ware said. "And that's when I knew, we were both going back in that house."
Former Army Special Forces Maj. Matthew Golsteyn will plead not guilty to a charge of murder for allegedly shooting an unarmed Afghan man whom a tribal leader had identified as a Taliban bomb maker, his attorney said.
Golsteyn will be arraigned on Thursday morning at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, Phillip Stackhouse told Task & Purpose.
No date has been set for his trial yet, said Lt. Col. Loren Bymer, a spokesman for U.S. Army Special Operations Command.
John Wick is back, and he's here to stay. It doesn't matter how many bad guys show up to try to collect on that bounty.
With John Wick: Chapter 3 — Parabellum, the titular hitman, played by 54-year-old Keanu Reeves, continues on a blood-soaked hyper-stylized odyssey of revenge: first for his slain dog, then his wrecked car, then his destroyed house, then ... well, honestly it's hard to keep track of exactly what Wick is avenging by this point, or the body count he's racked up in the process.
Though we do know that the franchise has raked in plenty of success at the box office: just a week after it's May 17 release, the third installment in director Chad Stahleski's series took in roughly $181 million, making it even more successful than its two wildly popular prequels 2014's John Wick, and 2017's John Wick: Chapter 2.
And, more importantly, Reeves' hitman is well on his way to becoming one of the greatest action movie heroes in recent memory. Few (if any) other action flicks have succeeded in creating a mind-blowing avant garde ballet out of a dozen well-dressed gunmen who get shot, choked, or stabbed with a pencil by a pissed off hitman who just wants to return to retirement.
But for all the over-the-top acrobatics, fight sequences, and gun-porn (see: the sommelier), what makes the series so enthralling, especially for the service members and vets in the audience, is that there are some refreshing moments of realism nestled under all of that gun fu. Wrack your brain and try to remember the last time you saw an action hero do a press check during a shootout, clear a jam, or actually, you know, reload, instead of just hip-firing 300 rounds from an M16 nonstop. It's cool, we'll wait.
As it turns out, there's a good reason for the caliber of gun-play in John Wick. One of the franchise's secret weapons is a professional three-gun shooter named Taran Butler, who told Task & Purpose he can draw and hit three targets in 0.67 seconds from 10 yards. And if you've watched any of the scores of videos he's uploaded to social media over the years, it's pretty clear that this isn't idle boasting.
The Navy's electromagnetic railgun is undergoing what officials described as "essentially a shakedown" of critical systems before finally installing a tactical demonstrator aboard a surface warship, the latest sign that the once-beleaguered supergun may actually end up seeing combat.
That pretty much means this is could be the last set of tests before actually slapping this bad boy onto a warship, for once.
The Justice Department has accused Rep. Duncan Hunter (R-Calif.) of illegally using campaign funds to pay for extramarital affairs with five women.
Hunter, who fought in the Iraq War as a Marine artillery officer, and his wife Margaret were indicated by a federal jury on Aug. 21, 2018 for allegedly using up to $250,000 in campaign funds for personal use.
In a recent court filing, federal prosecutors accused Hunter of using campaign money to pay for a variety of expenses involved with his affairs, ranging from a $1,008 hotel bill to $7 for a Sam Adams beer.