Terminally ill Green Beret wins victory in battle to file claim against military for alleged malpractice

ABC News
Wednesday, December 11, 2019

Military members were barred from filing claims because of a SCOTUS decision.

For the past year, Sgt. 1st Class Richard Stayskal has been fighting for justice.

While battling terminal stage 4 cancer -- which he said stemmed from military doctors failing to tell him about a tumor in his lung -- he has also been working with lawmakers to ensure that his family and other members of the military get the compensation they deserve for alleged medical malpractice.

Active-duty members of the military have not been able to make a claim against the government for nearly 70 years under the Feres doctrine, based on a controversial 1950 Supreme Court decision, but this week Stayskal appears to have achieved a victory in his efforts to change that.

New legislation, which was agreed upon by Congress and which made it into the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), will allow for members of the country's armed forces to file a claim against the U.S. and receive compensation if they were subjected to "negligent or wrongful" medical treatment at a military facility, according to a portion of the NDAA.

"It's kind of a little surreal," Stayskal, a 38-year-old father of two from Pinehurst, NC, told ABC News in a telephone interview.

Army Sgt. Richard Stayskal, Rep. Jackie Speier and attorney Natalie Khawam pose for a photo together.Courtesy Natalie Khawam

He said that even though the amendment doesn't upend Feres entirely, it's a start for military members and their families.

"There's no way you were gonna ask for the entire thing overhauled," Stayskal said. "We took the very narrow approach and said, 'Where can we start?'"

"And it seems to be working so far," he added.

Feres has long been deemed a failure of the Supreme Court, even among its justices.

In 1987, the late Justice Antonin Scalia wrote that "Feres was wrongly decided and heartily deserves the ‘widespread, almost universal criticism’ it has received," according to the Center for Justice Democracy at New York Law School.

Click here for the full article. 

Join Our Fight!

The Center for Justice & Democracy is the only national consumer organization in the country exclusively dedicated to protecting our civil justice system. If you'd like more information, please contact us.

Connect with us