Under Florida law, wrongful death refers to situations where a person’s negligence causes the death. After a successful lawsuit, the court may order the at-fault party to pay damages to the decedent’s close relatives. Damages typically include:
- Compensation for the survivor’s pain and suffering.
- Loss of companionship.
- Loss of the victim’s support and services provided to the surviving family members.
This process can be challenging to family members, and the claims only become more complex when the death is due to the decedent’s military service.
The sovereign immunity doctrine prevents individuals from suing the government unless the government agrees to the lawsuit. However, the Federal Tort Claims Act (FTCA) addresses sovereign immunity’s fundamental public policy issues. The FTCA provides exceptions to the sovereign immunity doctrine. While the right extends to veterans and their family members, the Feres Doctrine limits the rights of active-duty service members. Additionally, spouses of active duty service members cannot file a wrongful death or negligence claim against the military.
If a plaintiff overcomes the Feres Doctrine, the government may purport other defenses to avoid liability. For example, a woman filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the military for the death of her husband. The lawsuit alleges that her husband died because of his exposure to contaminated water and toxins while stationed in Camp Lejune. Moreover, her complaint alleges fraudulent concealment claims and failure to warn of the exposure.
The woman claims that her husband’s death stemmed from his relationship with the military and its provision of water and accommodations to its troops. The district court dismissed the lawsuit citing the lack of subject-matter jurisdiction. On appeal, the circuit court reasoned that the Feres doctrine bars the wrongful death claim. The court explained that the Feres doctrine did not bar the failure-to-warn claims. The FTCA does not apply where the injuries arise out of or are in the course of activity incident to service.
Determining whether an injury is “incident to service” is broad, and no bright-line rule exists to aid in the inquiry. In this case, the court found that the government did not maintain a mandatory duty to warn the service member of his exposure after the fact. Therefore, the district court affirmed the lower court’s ruling and found that the claim was barred under the Feres doctrine and FTCA exception.
Have You Suffered Injuries Related to Your Military Service
If you or someone you love has experienced injuries or died because of the negligence of the military, contact Friedman Rodman Frank & Estrada, P.A. The attorneys at our South Florida personal injury law firm have successfully represented accident victims since 1976. Our law firm handles claims stemming from Florida auto accidents, premises liability, products liability, medical malpractice, and military injuries. We have recovered significant amounts of compensation for our clients and their families. Compensation in many cases includes payments for medical expenses, ongoing treatment, pain and suffering, and burial expenses. Contact our office at 305-448-8585 to schedule a free initial consultation with an attorney on our team.