Should military hospitals be liable for gross medical mistakes, for medical malpractice? A case with local ties once again asks that question in the heartbreaking death of Navy Lt. Rebekah Moani Daniel in childbirth.
She entered Navy Hospital Bremerton in March of 2014 with her husband Coast Guard Lt. Cmdr. Walter Daniel. According to the details provided by the Kitsap Sun she bled to death after an easy birth of their daughter, Victoria. Among other medical errors the lawsuit charges that a hospital doctor waited 90 minutes past the standard set to order a transfusion. Yet, Lt. Cmdr. Daniel is barred from suing the hospital for this egregious error.
This death is tragic and simple compassion makes us all long for justice for Walter and his daughter. Justice is certainly a reason for suing, when we are harmed by someone’s carelessness or incompetence. Yet, these personal injury and medical malpractice lawsuits are the means to set penalties for malpractice. They motivate medical facilities to make changes in their practices that will increase the safety of all of us.
Workers Compensation and Medical Malpractice
In 1950, the Supreme Court ruling in Feres prevents troops from suing the government for injuries deemed incidental to military service. How is the birth of a baby “military service”? Courts and the government argue that the military equivalent of civilian workers compensation provides sufficient compensation for injuries due to medical malpractice. Workers compensation prevents civilian workers who are injured on the job from suing their employers in exchange for payments from the insurance fund. Yet, nowhere in civilian employment are medical malpractice injuries covered by workers comp. Thus, this discrepancy can translate to less accountability in military hospital practices.
Did an attorney fail to take your case?
The attorney in this case is taking a real chance in bringing suit, as is the husband. Our court system requires that previous decisions by the Supreme Court sets the rule in similar cases. The person suing can be charged for the expenses of the winning side, if the judge decides that there was no basis to file the lawsuit. Lawyers take personal injury cases without charge, taking a percentage of the ultimate court award. The number of hours an attorney can put in can mean financial ruin for him or her. So they take a serious risk when they take on a case with an established Supreme Court rule.
Each attorney makes an individual assessment. If one lawyer won’t take your case, whether injuries from an auto accident, a slip and fall, a faulty product or medical malpractice, consider asking another experienced personal injury attorney about your case. The initial consultation is always free.
John Groseclose, Partner, GSJones Law Group, P.S.