The Ortiz Family’s Birth Injury Case and Fight to Change the Feres Doctrine

When one makes the decision to serve in the military or armed services, it’s a choice that will open up many new doors and opportunities. On top of the invaluable skills soldiers learn and develop, there are even many laws now on the books that help veterans find employment after their service is over. Unfortunately, it’s not all glory and honor for the men and women that protect our freedoms.

One current case of the United States government leaving a member of their military family out in the cold involves the birth injury lawsuit filed by Jorge Ortiz and his family. According to the legal industry news source, the Ortiz case originates from the birth of his daughter in a military hospital in 2009.

Ortiz, who is an Air Force veteran, and his wife, who was an active duty Air Force Captain at the time, gave birth to a baby girl at the Evans Army Community Hospital in Colorado, where Mrs. Ortiz was stationed. Every part of the planned Cesarean section was going well until the mother had an allergic reaction, which medical personnel at the hospital gave her an antihistamine for.

The only problem was that the antihistamine they gave her was on the list of specific known medial allergies the Ortiz family provided the hospital with. As a result, the mother’s blood pressure dropped dramatically, which caused her baby to suffer oxygen deprivation while still in the womb. The baby, whom they named Isabella, ultimately experienced severe nerve and brain damage, which today requires physical and occupational therapy for the six-year-old.

The family immediately sought legal counsel and filed suit against the government, knowing even at the time the potential burden of medical expenses they would face for their daughter in the future. The initial birth injury lawsuit was quickly dismissed by a district level court that cited the Feres doctrine.

The Feres doctrine essentially states that members of the armed services and/or members of their immediate family cannot sue the government based on injuries sustained or arising from “activity incident to military service.” The court argued that because the mother gave birth while she was on active duty at a military base, the incident met these standards.

Since that time the Ortiz family has seen the decision by the district court upheld by an appellate one as well, but that hasn’t stopped them from seeking a ruling from the country’s highest judicial authority.

“We’ve reached a point where people can see how unfair this is for children of military families,” Jorge Ortiz said in a phone interview with from his San Antonio home. “Isabella is the voice of these families.”

With that as their rallying call, the Ortiz family petitioned the U.S. Supreme Court to overturn this ruling this past October in what will put an end to what has become perhaps the family’s biggest battle yet.

Jorge Ortiz has been adamant throughout he does believe in the Feres doctrine as a beneficial entity pertaining to frivolous lawsuits and claims against the government. However, he believes cases like that of his daughter should not be in the same group simply because her mother gave birth on a military base.

If it is heard, the Supreme Court has an opportunity to alter the scope of a doctrine that’s been on the books for over 65 years. The government has until January 18 to file a response to the petition.