The Supreme Court held that these suits were barred because the injuries were sustained incident to active duty military service. Feres, 340 U.S. at 146.
The government also argues that the generous statutory disability benefits provided to LeCrone are an independent reason why the Feres doctrine bars suits for service-related injuries. See Johnson, 481 U.S. at 689-90 (explaining that generous disability benefits and free lifetime medical care for military personnel who suffer injuries incident to service are reasons for the Feres doctrine's bar on suits for service-related injuries).
Under Feres and Atkinson, it is clear that medical malpractice claims against the United States for negligent medical care provided to active duty personnel by military doctors are incident to military service and are therefore barred by the Feres doctrine. For these reasons, the Court lacks subject matter jurisdiction to adjudicate LeCrone's medical malpractice suit against the Navy.
2. Second Cause of Action for Assault and Battery
The second cause of action for assault and battery must be dismissed because the FTCA does not contain a waiver of sovereign immunity for claims of assault and battery. Title 42 U.S.C. § 2680 provides that "the provisions of this chapter and section 1346(b) of this title shall not apply to -- ... (h) Any claim arising out of assault or battery[.]" As a sovereign, the United States is immune from suit unless it unequivocally consents to be sued. United States v. Mitchell, 445 U.S. 535, 538, 63 L. Ed. 2d 607, 100 S. Ct. 1349 (1980), reh'g denied, 446 U.S. 992, 64 L. Ed. 2d 849, 100 S. Ct. 2979 (1980); United States v. Testan, 424 U.S. 392, 399, 47 L. Ed. 2d 114, 96 S. Ct. 948 (1976).
Since the United States has not waived its sovereign immunity to suits for assault and battery, the Court lacks subject matter jurisdiction to adjudicate this claim.
3. Third, Fourth, and Fifth Causes of Action
Plaintiff's third cause of action is for discrimination -- violation of civil rights; his fourth cause of action is for intentional infliction of emotional distress; and his fifth cause of action is for negligent infliction of emotional distress. These causes of action arise from the Navy's failure to prosecute the alleged assailants from the assault and battery incident. The Navy moves to have these claims dismissed under the Feres doctrine because the alleged tortious injury was incident to LeCrone's military service. One of the rationales for the Feres doctrine is that courts should not become entangled in "sensitive military affairs at the expense of military discipline and effectiveness." Johnson, 481 U.S. at 690; see Johnson v. United States, 704 F.2d 1431, 1436 (9th Cir. 1983) (stating that safeguarding military discipline is the fundamental rationale for immunity). If this suit were to go forward, plaintiff could seek discovery from the Commanding Officer and other members of plaintiff's command regarding the reasons why they chose not to prosecute this case. Moreover, plaintiff might seek discovery from the Naval Legal Services Office regarding their investigation of this event and the reasons why they decided not to prosecute. This would not only distract these military personnel from their duties, but would interfere with military discipline by allowing LeCrone to second guess and probe his commanding officers' decisions. It is precisely these types of interferences which Feres is aimed at preventing.
In Chappell v. Wallace, 462 U.S. 296, 76 L. Ed. 2d 586, 103 S. Ct. 2362 (1983), five enlisted men sued their commanding officer, several officers and several senior NCO's alleging racial discrimination on the ship on which they served. The Supreme Court stated:
The need for special regulations in relation to military discipline, and the consequent need and justification for a special and exclusive system of military justice, is too obvious to require extensive discussion; no military organization can function without strict discipline and regulation that would be unacceptable in a civilian setting.
Id. at 300. The Uniform Code of Military Justice provides military personnel with a remedy for improper actions taken by superior officers. See 10 U.S.C. § 938. The Supreme Court concluded that Feres barred claims asserted against superior officers for constitutional violations. Plaintiffs' only remedy was to proceed through the military courts martial, using the remedies afforded by the Uniform Code of Military Justice. Id. at 304-05.
Defendant also argues that the Commanding Officer and the Naval Legal Officers are entitled to prosecutorial immunity for their decision not to prosecute the alleged assailants. A prosecutor, in the performance of the duties imposed upon him by law, is immune from a civil action based on his decision to prosecute or not to prosecute a defendant. Imbler v. Pachtman, 424 U.S. 409, 422, 47 L. Ed. 2d 128, 96 S. Ct. 984 (1976).
The Ninth Circuit has held that federal courts cannot review the quasi-prosecutorial actions of a commanding officer. Davis v. United States, 667 F.2d 822, 825 (9th Cir. 1982). In Davis, after a defendant was acquitted in a court-martial, he filed suit in federal court against his commanding officer alleging malicious prosecution and other intentional torts. Id. at 823-24. The Ninth Circuit explained:
Davis asks the court to review the quasi-prosecutorial actions of his commanding officer in implementing the investigatory and adjudicatory functions of the military justice system. The court is compelled to exercise restraint both in review of internal military decisions, and in examination of the official acts of a prosecutor. Additional caution is mandated when the involvement of the court system in a military dispute threatens disruption of "discipline and the orderly conduct of military affairs." In our view allowing federal court review of military tribunals to determine compliance with state tort law would constitute an unjustified interference with the military system and would undermine military order and discipline.