Justice for Service Members Who Are Victims of Negligence
Our friends at the American Association for Justice (AAJ) are now fighting for the rights of service members who died not in combat, but because of medical negligence. One case in particular that is coming before a House judiciary subcommittee involves the tragic death of Marine Sgt. Carmelo Rodriguez.
Sgt. Rodriguez served his country with honor for nearly a decade including a tour of duty in Iraq. Tragically, he died of medical negligence. His death should not have happened. When Rodriguez enlisted in the U.S. Marine Corps, he received a routine medical exam. Doctors diagnosed a blotch on his buttock as melanoma, but did not inform him of their diagnosis. Over the next eight years, the melanoma continued to grow. During his service in Iraq, Rodriguez had it examined again. This time he was told that it was “just a wart” and that he should have it examined upon his return to the United States. But when he actually got around to doing that, it was too late. Rodriguez died 18 months later from skin cancer, leaving behind his 7-year-old son.
The sad fact here is while most Americans have the right to pursue justice through the court system, service members like Rodriguez and his family do not have that same right. The Carmelo Rodriguez Military Medical Accountability Act introduced by Rep. Maurice D. Hinchey would restore the protections of the civil justice system to the men and women of our armed forces. A 1950 Supreme Court ruling (Feres v. United States) prevents service members on active duty from holding the government accountable for non-combat related injuries. This ruling basically takes away from these military families, that are willing to make that ultimate sacrifice, the right to seek redress through our civil justice system.
There is no question that our military service members who are injured by medical negligence or personal injury should have the same protections and right to justice that other citizens enjoy. We support this important legislation, which would restore these rights to the men and women who are ready to put their lives on the line for us. These great heroes have been ignored and forgotten for too long and it shouldn’t be allowed to happen any more.