Members of the armed forces are generally immune from liability for tort actions that may be brought by other members of the armed forces. Such type of immunity is referred to as intra-military immunity or the Feres doctrine.
In accordance with the Feres doctrine, which doctrine was established by a United States Supreme Court case in 1950, a member of the armed forces is not entitled to file a lawsuit against the United States government or against a military or a civilian employee of the United States government for injuries that arise out of his or her military service. The Feres doctrine looks only at the status of the person who is bringing suit. It does not look at the status of a defendant. If a plaintiff is a member of the armed forces, he or she is not entitled to bring a tort action against his or her superior officers or against the United States government for injuries that arise out of his or her military service.
The Feres doctrine applies to any activity that is connected with military service. It applies to actions that are brought by present service members or by former service members. It applies to recreational activities and military activities. It also applies to voluntary activities and mandatory activities.
Although the Feres doctrine prohibits an active duty service member and his or her dependents from filing an action for loss of consortium or for loss of the services and support of a spouse, it does not prevent a dependent from filing an action against the United States government for an independent claim or a claim that is not related to the service member’s duties. In other words, the dependent is entitled to file a tort action against another service member or against the United States government for a tort that has been committed against the dependent. The Feres doctrine also does not apply to a claim that accrues on behalf of a retired service member after the service member has retired. The Feres doctrine further does not apply to private citizens.
The Feres doctrine provides immunity to the United States government, to members of the armed forces, and to civilian employees of the United States government.
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