|MILITARY ATTORNEYS ONLINE
THE FERES DOCTRINE
The Feres Doctrine, established in 1950, is a rule which provides legal immunity
to the United States Military in personal injury cases. No suit against the
government is allowed when the victim of a personal injury is an active duty
member of the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines or Coast Guard and the harm was
caused by the negligence of the United States military.
from suing the government regardless of whether the crash was caused by the
negligence of a military mechanic, dispatcher, pilot or air traffic controller.
Military Medical Malpractice
In the case of military medical malpractice, the doctrine bars the service member
or surviving family form bringing a lawsuit against a military doctor, nurse,
hospital or medical facility.
As you may well imagine, the Feres Doctrine is very controversial. The doctrine
allows the all branches of military to avoid responsibility for not just simple
negligence, but for gross negligence as well. Because of its unfairness, Congress
has repeatedly been asked to abolish the rule, or at least limit it. But the Feres
Doctrine remains the law. As long as the victim was an "active" service member,
and the injury or death was "incident to service," the military is immune from
You can read the full Supreme Court decision here: Feres v. United States 340 U.