Federal Torts Claim Act/Federal Employees Compensation Act/Medical Negligence
Hawkins v. United States, No. 19-35918 (9th Cir., September 28, 2021) (J. Watford)
Plaintiff, a U.S. Navy veteran sought psychiatric care at a VA hospital. She brings suit against the U.S. alleging she was injured as a result of the medical negligence of two doctors at the VA hospital. She had sought treatment following a mental breakdown caused by years of workplace bullying and harassment at the hands of her supervisor.
The Federal Employees' Compensation Act [FECA] is a form of federal workers compensation covering most federal employees. It is an exclusive remedy for work related injuries. Plaintiff made a claim against FECA which was denied on the basis her injury was not job-related. She then brought this Federal Tort Claim Act [FTCA] for medical negligence. The Federal District Court dismissed the FTCA claim on the basis it was barred by the right to an exclusive remedy under the FECA.
The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals reversed and remanded finding that the FTCA claim was not based upon a claim for damages incurred as a result of workplace bullying or harassment but rather was based purely on alleged medical negligence committed by two VA doctors in the psychiatric ward. As such the claim was not barred by the FECA.
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