The Feres Doctrine
The Feres doctrine comes from the Supreme Court case of Feres v. United States, which was decided in
1950. In this case, the Supreme Court held that the United States is not liable under the Federal Tort
Claims Act, which had been passed in the late 1940s, for the injuries to members of the armed forces
that were caused by the negligence of other members of the armed forces. The doctrine applies only to
active duty members of the armed forces.
Practically speaking, the Feres doctrine bars any service member from collecting damages from the United
States for personal injuries, regardless of whether the injury was a result of performance of duties
or another person’s negligence. In addition, the doctrine bars family members of service members from
filing wrongful death or loss of consortium claims if their family member is killed or injured.
Many things still fall outside of the Feres doctrine. For example, an active duty service member whose
child is injured on a military base because someone negligently drove a truck can still sue the United
States for damage done to the child as a result of the driver’s negligence either in loco parentis on
the child’s behalf or for wrongful death or loss of consortium. The same type of lawsuits are available
to any civilian who is connected to the armed forces and is injured on a base or some similar location.
Another exception exists if a service member is injured and sues for those injuries as a result of an
accident that could have just as easily injured civilians in the same circumstances as the service member’s