January 01, 2018 GPSolo

Closing the Courthouse Door to Servicemember Suits: Understanding the Feres Doctrine

Dwight D. Stirlin and Dallis Warshaw

Suppose a prospective client enters your office, a sexual assault survivor inquiring about legal representation in a tort case. Meeting with her, you hear a shocking narrative of violence, depravity, and institutional liability. As result of the discussion and follow-up research, you conclude she has a meritorious case and file a civil suit against both the individual perpetrator and the employer. When the defendants respond with motions to dismiss, you are not concerned, considering the motions more of an irritation than a real threat, the complaint alleging more than enough evidence of wrongfulness and damages to establish a factual dispute. Shockingly, however, the court grants the defendants’ motions, dismissing the suit with prejudice. In his ruling, the judge says that while he finds dismissal to be unfair and unfortunate, throwing the case out is nevertheless mandated by Supreme Court precedent.

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