Jeanne Anne Steffin
Attorney-At-Law

"When deserving people need special legal help..."

Call: 626-235-1173
Email: jsteffin@steffin.com

 

The Military Claims Act

 

Claims arising in a Foreign Country

 

     When Congress passed the Federal Tort Claims Act in 1945, it opened the door to suing the Government for injuries suffered due to actions by employees of the United States acting in the course and scope of their employment.  Each of the Agencies of the United States have implemented regulations for such Claims to be brought.  There was always the clear limitation that such Claims and the ensuing litigation if a resolution could not be reached could only be brought for negligent actions that occurred within the United States.

    

When the negligence happened in a foreign country, the United States would not allow a lawsuit to be brought, although there is a provision for an administrative tort claim to be pursued with the Agency involved via the Military Claims Act.

 

     The basic filing and heads up and identifying a sum certain and signing the Claim Form is identical to the FTCA. But, certain procedures are not allowed:

  1. The Claimant is entitled to medical and other records.  But depositions of Government witnesses are not allowed.
  2. Government personnel evaluate the case, including Government records and any supporting documents or expert opinions the Claimant may supply.
  3. All decisions regarding STANDARD OF CARE, CAUSATION, and DAMAGES are reached under the exclusive authority of Government reviewers.
  4. There is NO opportunity for Claimant to present evidence in Federal Court.  Thus, there will be NO JUDGE or objective third party involved in the case.
  5. Any appeal from the decision of the Government reviewers will be referred back to those same government reviewers for final decision.

 

            Despite these limitations, it has been the experience in our practice that meritorious claims can be resolved equitably in many instances.

            Resolution of Military Claims requires careful preparation employing legal skill and medical expertise.

            Bringing Military Malpractice Claims under the Military Claims Act is a specialty area of law and a major focus of our practice.

 

Claims by Active Duty Members

            Claims involving ACTIVE DUTY MEMBERS are NOT ALLOWED under either FTCAor Military Claims Act, whether in the US or overseas...  Such claims are specifically excluded by the Feres Doctrine, and the exclusive option of such individuals is via the Department of Veterans Affairs and entitlement to service connection for injuries caused or aggravated by military care or circumstances.

 

            Military dependents are able to bring FTCA Claims and to sue the Government under FTCA if the tort occurs within the US.  Otherwise, they still have the option to bring an action for Military Malpractice, and for certain other injuries, under the Military Claims Act.

 

Establishing the Case

 

            Some of the procedures involved in bringing a case under the Military Claims Act are similar to the procedures under the FTCA.  However, there are also important differences.

 

Similarities to FTCA

         To bring an action successfully, plaintiffs must present EVIDENCE to show that the components of a TORT exist, that there is a prima facie case of negligence (including malpractice at a US Government military facility).  This EVIDENCE will be reviewed by civilian and military personnel to determine whether a TORT exists and, if so, what compensation will be offered.  There is NO federal judge involved at any stage.

         In order to do this the MEDICAL RECORDS must be reviewed by EXPERTS.

 

            EXPERTS are generally PHYSICIANS to evaluate the medical procedures and their effects, LIFE CARE PLANNERS and ECONOMISTS to determine how the actions of the Government defendant adversely affected the plaintiff, including the monetary damages.  The EXPERTS prepare reports to be submitted to the military claims reviewers for disposition of the case.

 

 

Differences from FTCA

 

            Plaintiff’s attorney will attempt to reach a settlement with the Government reviewers.  But UNLIKE FTCA, there are NO depositions, NO opportunity to question witnesses, NO Federal judge, and NO trial.  Therefore, UNLIKE FTCA, there is NO verdict.

            Any award is therefore ENTIRELY at the discretion of the military reviewers.

 

     

Jurisdiction of Military Claims as opposed to FTCA Actions

            In order for this entire procedure to be implemented under the Military Claims Act, the TORT must have occurred OUTSIDE of the United States.

 

 

Settlements under the Military Claims Act

            Because there is NO JUDGE to evaluate the evidence or reach a verdict for Military Claims Act cases, reaching a settlement can, and often does, present more severe challenges than under the FTCA.

            Jeanne Steffin has been prosecuting Military Claims Act cases for many years and is very used to these kinds of challenges.  Despite these difficulties, she has been able to resolve Military Claims Act cases favorably in many situations.  This is a major portion of her practice.

 

 

 

 

 

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