Rebekah "Moani" Daniel and her husband Walter Daniel. (Walter Daniel/Luvera Law Firm)
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.
For going on 17 years, Sgt. 1st Class Richard Stayskal has served, fought, and bled for his country; first as a Marine infantryman, when he survived a gunshot wound to the chest during a firefight in Ramadi, Iraq, in 2004; and then as a U.S. Army Green Beret, deploying overseas multiple times.
Now, he's fighting a battle against terminal lung cancer that his military care providers failed to catch, and in the process, Stayskal is taking on a 69-year-old legal rule known as the Feres Doctrine which bars service members and their families from suing the government for negligence or wrongdoing.
On April 30, Stayskal was one of three victims of military medical malpractice to testify before Congress on the Supreme Court precedent that bars them from having their day in court.
Richard Stayskal and his wife Megan traveled to the nation's capital to testify on the Feres Doctrine, a 1950 legal rule that bars service members from suing the government for negligence and wrongdoing. (Task & Purpose/James Clark)
Members of Congress on Tuesday heard directly from victims of military medical malpractice who are barred from suing the government due to a decades-old Supreme Court precedent known as the Feres Doctrine.
The list of witnesses included service members, veterans, Gold Star family members, and legal experts who offered emotional testimony during a House Armed Services subcommittee hearing on how the legal rule has barred military victims of medical malpractice from legal recourse.
Sailors from Naval Medical Center San Diego (NMCSD), currently assigned to USNS Mercy (T-AH 19) works on a mock patient during a mass casualty drill for Mercy Exercise (MERCEX) in December 2018. (U.S. Navy/Cameron Pinske)
In March 2014, at Naval Hospital Bremerton, Washington, Navy Lt. Rebekah "Moani" Daniel was admitted to have her first child. A labor and delivery nurse who worked at the facility, she was surrounded by friends and co-workers when daughter Victoria entered the world.
But four hours later, the 33-year-old was dead, having lost more than a third of her body's volume of blood to post-partum hemorrhaging. Her husband's attorney argues that the doctors failed to deploy treatments in time to halt the bleeding, leading to her death.
Her baby, now 5, never felt her mom's embrace.
This Friday, the U.S. Supreme Court will decide whether to hear a petition from Moani Daniel's husband, Walter Daniel, in his case against the Navy hospital where his wife died. Like every other service member, Daniel was required to get medical care from the U.S. military, but her family is prohibited from suing for medical malpractice, barred by a 69-year-old legal ruling known as Feres that precludes troops from suing the federal government for injuries deemed incidental to military service.
"Suppose you had two sisters. One was on active duty and the other was a military dependent. Both of them give birth in adjoining rooms at the same military hospital [by the same doctor]. Both are victims of malpractice. One can sue and the other one can't. How can that make sense?" asked attorney Eugene Fidell, a former Coast Guard judge advocate general and military law expert who lectures at Yale Law School.
The U.S. Supreme Court has upheld the Defense Department's authority to prosecute retired service members for crimes they commit, even after retirement.
The court on Tuesday chose not to hear the case of a retired Marine who was court-martialed for a sexual assault he committed three months after leaving the service in August 2015. By not accepting the case, Larrabee v. the United States, the court upheld the status quo: that military retirees are subject to the Uniform Code of Military Justice.
Army Sgt. Jeremy Seals died on Oct. 31, 2018, following a protracted battle with stomach cancer. His widow, Cheryl Seals is mounting a lawsuit alleging that military care providers missed her husband's cancer. Task & Purpose photo illustration by Aaron Provost
The widow of a soldier whose stomach cancer was allegedly overlooked by Army doctors for four years is mounting a medical malpractice lawsuit against the military, but due to a decades-old legal rule known as the Feres Doctrine, her case will likely be dismissed before it ever goes to trial.