Feres Doctrine… did you know?


This seems like an unAmerican

A doctrine that bars claims against the federal government by members of the armed forces and their families for injuries arising from or in the course of activity incident to military service.

The U.S. Supreme Court decided in 1950, in Feres v. United States, 340 U.S. 135, 71 S. Ct. 153, 95 L. Ed. 152, that the federal government could not be held liable under the statute known as the Federal Tort Claims Act (28 U.S.C.A. §§ 1291, 1346(b), (c), 1402(b), 2401(b), 2402, 2671-80) for injuries to members of the armed forces arising from activities incident to military service. The Federal Tort Claims Act allows persons intentionally or negligently wronged by a government employee to sue the government for their injuries. The Supreme Court’s decision barring suits involving injuries to members of the armed forces became known as the Feres doctrine. The doctrine remains in force, as the Supreme Court has rejected attempts to over-rule the decision.

Feres involved a suit brought by the executor of a soldier who had died when his barracks caught fire. The executor charged that the United States had been negligent in housing the soldier in barracks whose defective heating system was known to be unsafe. First, the Supreme Court rejected the argument that such a suit could be brought under the Federal Tort Claims Act of 1946, which had waived the government’s traditional Immunity from claims in many circumstances. Noting that the statute said that “[t]he United States shall be liable … in the same manner and to the same extent as a private individual under like circumstances” (28 U.S.C.A. § 2674), the Court concluded that the relationship between the government and members of its armed forces is “distinctively federal in character.” Therefore, it would be anomalous to have the government’s liability depend on the law of the state where the soldier was stationed. Second, the Court observed that in several enactments, Congress had established a “no-fault” compensation plan that provides pensions to injured members of the Armed Services.

Commenting on the Feres doctrine in United States v. Brown, 348 U.S. 110, 75 S. Ct. 141, 99 L. Ed. 139 (1954), the Court emphasized that discipline and “[t]he peculiar and special relationship of the soldier to his superiors” might be affected if suits were allowed under the Tort Claims Act “for negligent orders given or negligent acts committed in the course of military duty.” This view became one of the bedrock justifications for the doctrine in the years following Brown.

The U.S. Supreme Court has stressed that the Feres doctrine “cannot be reduced to a few bright-line rules,” but rather “each case must be examined in light of the [Tort Claims Act] as it has been construed in Feres and subsequent cases” (United States v. Shearer, 473 U.S. 52, 105S. Ct. 3039, 87 L. Ed. 2d 38 [1985]).

The doctrine does not bar a claim arising from an independent injury committed by the government after a soldier has been discharged (Brown). In Brown, an injury suffered by a veteran during treatment at a veterans administration hospital for a prior injury that he had sustained during military service was not barred by Feres. The Court distinguished Brown from Feres on the ground that in Brown, the second injury did not arise from or in the course of military service.

The doctrine did apply, however, to a suit involving the death of a soldier who was off the military base on authorized leave when he was kidnapped and murdered by a fellow soldier with a known history of violence (Shearer). The mother of the murdered soldier charged that the Army had been negligent in failing to warn the other soldiers that the murderer was dangerous and in failing to restrict the murderer’s movements while his discharge was being processed. The Supreme Court denied her claim under the Feres doctrine on the ground that the suit would require a civilian court to second-guess military decisions that are directly involved in the management of the armed forces. If such suits were allowed, “commanding officers would have to stand prepared to convince a civilian court of the wisdom of a wide range of military and disciplinary decisions.” As a result, military discipline would suffer the detrimental effects that the Feres doctrine was designed to prevent.

The doctrine also applies to third parties seeking indemnity from the federal government. In Stencel Aero Engineering Corp. v. United States, 431 U.S. 666, 97 S. Ct. 2054, 52 L. Ed. 2d 665 (1977), an injured National Guard officer brought a suit against Stencel, the manufacturer of the ejection system in his fighter aircraft. Stencel then filed a cross-claim against the United States for indemnity (reimbursement for damages that it might pay to the officer), alleging that any malfunction of the ejection system was due to faulty government specifications and components. The Supreme Court held that the same reasoning that prevented a member of the armed services from recovering under the Tort Claims Act would limit a third party from recovering in an indemnity action.

The Feres doctrine was challenged in two cases decided by the Supreme Court in 1987. The doctrine had long been criticized as unfair to service members. In United States v. Johnson, 481 U.S. 681, 107 S. Ct. 2063, 95 L. Ed. 2d 648, the United States was sued for injuries sustained by a service member as the result of the Negligence of air traffic controllers, who are civilian employees of the federal government. On a 5–4 decision, the Court reaffirmed the application of the Feres doctrine. The Court noted that civilian employees may also “play an integral role in military activities. In this circumstance, an inquiry into the civilian activities would have the same effect on military discipline as a direct inquiry into military judgments.”

In United States v. Stanley, 483 U.S. 669, 107S. Ct. 3054, 97 L. Ed. 2d 550 (1987), the United States was sued not only under the Federal Tort Claims Act but also directly under the Constitution. The Court rejected this attempt to circumvent Feres. It affirmed the lower court’s decision to dismiss the lawsuit because of the principles set out in the Feres decision.

Further readings

Maser, Mark G. 2002. “Feres Doctrine: United States Courts of Appeals Consistently Hold that Members of the Armed Forces are Barred from Bringing Suits Against the Government When Service Members are Injured Incident to Military Sponsored Sports and Recreational Activities.” Seton Hall Journal of Sport Law 12 (summer): 333–60.

Seidelson, David E. 1994. “From Feres v. United States to Boyle v. United Technologies Corp.: An Examination of Supreme Court Jurisprudence and a Couple of Suggestions.” Duquesne Law Review 32 (winter): 219–68.

Turley, Jonathan. 2003. “Pax Militaris: The Feres Doctrine and the Retention of Sovereign Immunity in the Military System of Governance.” George Washington Law Review 71 (February): 1–90.

United States. Congress. Senate. Committee on the Judiciary. 2003. The Feres Doctrine: An Examination of this Military Exception to the Federal Tort Claims Act: Hearing Before the Committee on the Judiciary, United States Senate, One Hundred Seventh Congress, Second Session, October 8, 2002. Washington, D.C.: Government Printing Office.

Feres Doctrine

The MOVE Bombing … Philly on May 13th – Black History- Actions that cannot be forgotten


Here are 11 things you should know about the MOVE Philadelphia bombing

Police, firemen and workers sort through the rubble resulting from May 13 fire, destroying 61 homes on Osage Avenue in Philadelphia, Penn., on Wednesday, May 16, 1985.
GEORGE WIDMAN / AP

On May 13, 1985, a bomb was dropped on a row house in Philadelphia, unleashing a relentless fire that eventually burned down 61 houses, killed 11 people (including five children), and injured dozens.

The fire department stood by idly. The Philadelphia Police Department did the same. The fire raged on, swallowing up home after home until more than 200 were without shelter.

It’s a shameful part of recent American history that’s somehow been buried under 31 years and other destructions that have fallen on the city of Philadelphia. NewsOne decided to take a trip back in time to explore what happened the day America bombed its own people.

– The MOVE Organization is a Philadelphia-based Black liberation group that preached revolution and advocated the return to a natural lifestyle. They lived communally and vowed to lead a life uninterrupted by the government, police, or technology. They were passionate supporters of animal rights. Members adopted vegan diets and the surname “Africa.” Often times they would engage in public demonstrations related to issues they deemed important.

– MOVE did, however, have a past with the police. Since inception in 1972, the group was looked at as a threat to the Philadelphia Police Department. In 1978, police raided their Powelton Village homes and as a result, one police officer died after being shot in the head. Nine MOVE members were arrested, charged with third-degree murder, and sent to prison. They argued that the police officer was shot in the back of his head on his way into the home, challenging the claim that he was shot by members inside the house. Eventually the group relocated to their infamous house on 6221 Osage Street.

– There are differing reports about the group and how troublesome they actually were. According to the AP, neighbors complained about their house on Osage, which was barricaded with plywood and allegedly contained a multitude of weapons. It has been said that the group built a giant wooden bunker on the roof and used a bullhorn to “scream obscenities at all hours of the night,” angering those living in nearby row houses. Eventually, they turned to city officials for help, which put into motion the events of May 13, 1985.

– On that day, armed police, the fire department, and city officials gathered at the house in an attempt to clear it out and arrest MOVE members who had been indicted for crimes like parole violation and illegal possession of firearms. When police tossed tear gas canisters into the home, MOVE members fired back. In turn, the police discharged their guns.

– Eventually, a police helicopter flew over the home and dropped two bombs on the row house. A ferocious blaze followed.

– Witnesses and MOVE members say that when members started to run out of the burning structure to escape a fiery death, police continued to fire their weapons.

– The fire department delayed putting out the flames. After the blaze, they claimed they didn’t want to put their men in harm’s way, because MOVE members were still firing their guns. But MOVE members and witnesses say the wait was deliberate.

– In the end, 11 people, including MOVE’s founder John Africa, were dead. Five children died in the home.

– This is the only child survivor (see picture below). His name is Birdie Africa, but it was later changed to Michael Ward. He ran out of the burning house naked and covered in flames. He survived his third-degree burns and went on to live a normal life, although he was scarred forever by the lifelong burns on his abdomen, arms, and face.

– Michael Ward was found dead on Friday, Sept. 20, 2013 in the jacuzzi aboard a cruise ship in the Caribbean. He was on vacation with his family. Initial autopsy reports say he drowned.

– In the end, no one from the city government was criminally charged.

SOURCE: APPhilly, Independent research | PHOTO CREDIT: Getty

image: AP  and vpr.org

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It is summertime and the USDA’s Meat and Poultry Hotline agents are heating things up by answering your food safety questions! Hotline experts keep the public safe from foodborne illness by answering calls on all sorts of food safety topics.

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