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Minns v. United States
United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit
155 F.3d 445 (1998)
The United States (defendant) military decided to inoculate three servicemen and expose them to toxins and pesticides in preparation for Operation Desert Storm and the Persian Gulf War in anticipation of Iraq’s possible use of biological and chemical weapons. The servicemen returned home after the war to their wives (plaintiffs) and fathered children (plaintiffs). All the children suffered from the same rare birth defect called Goldenhar’s syndrome, which produced various deformities. Based on preliminary studies, the wives believed that the toxins were possibly stored in the servicemen’s semen, passed on to their wives, and ultimately released to the fetuses. The wives and children presented claims for damages to the Office of the Judge Advocate General (JAG) under the Military Claims Act. JAG disallowed these claims. The wives and children filed actions in the district court to review the JAG decisions and to assert independent negligence claims against the US under the Federal Tort Claims Act (FTCA). The wives and children claimed that the military committed negligent acts directed at them by negligently administering investigational and defective drugs to the servicemen, which later caused the children’s birth defects. The district court ruled that it did not have jurisdiction to review JAG decisions. It ruled that the Feres doctrine, which barred a suit by a nonservice person based on an injury with a genesis in an injury suffered by the service person incident to service, excluded derivative-genetic-injury claims under the FTCA. The district court dismissed the claims.
Rule of Law
Holding and Reasoning (Niemeyer, J.)
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