House Judiciary Committee Hands Servicemembers Victory in Fight for Justice

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For Immediate Release: October 7, 2009

Contact: Kyle Murphy
202-965-3500, ext. 369
media.replies@justice.org

House Judiciary Committee Hands Servicemembers Victory in Fight for Justice

Committee approves Carmelo Rodriguez Military Medical Accountability Act, protecting legal rights of those who serve their country

Washington, DC – Men and women of our armed forces injured by medical negligence are a step closer to the restoration of their legal rights today, following the House Judiciary Committee’s approval of the Carmelo Rodriguez Military Medical Accountability Act (H.R. 1478 / S. 1347), sponsored by Rep. Maurice D. Hinchey (D-NY) and Sen. Charles Schumer (D-NY).

A 1950 U.S. Supreme Court ruling in Feres v. United States prevents servicemembers on active duty from holding the government accountable for non-combat related injuries.  This decision strips countless military families of their right to seek redress through our civil justice system.

“Currently, the law unfairly treats our brave servicemen and women as second-class citizens,” said Anthony Tarricone, President of the American Association for Justice.  “But this legislation would restore their basic legal rights and protect them from injuries they receive as a result of preventable medical errors.”

The bill is named after Marine Sgt. Carmelo Rodriguez, who served his country with honor for nearly a decade, including a tour of duty in Iraq, and died as a result of preventable medical negligence.  A blotch on his buttock went untreated and misdiagnosed multiple times by military doctors.  Years later, by the time Sgt. Rodriguez had learned it was a melanoma, the damage was done.  He died from the cancer while holding the hand of his seven-year-old son.

The legislation would also help Army Colonel Adele Connell, who after 24 years of service, learned that she had a small malignant tumor in her left breast.  However, during her surgery, doctors operated under the assumption that the tumor was in her right breast, removing 16 lymph nodes that should never have been touched.  She now suffers from a constant burning sensation in her right arm and is susceptible to future infections.  There is no cure for her lymphedema, and because of the Feres doctrine, she is left with practically no legal recourse against the government.

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