By Buzz McClain
George Mason University
The George Mason University School of Lawâ€™s Clinic for Legal Assistance to Servicemembers and Veterans has filed two amicus or â€œfriend of the courtâ€ briefs with the Supreme Court in an effort to educate the court on flaws in the Federal Tort Claims Act (FTCA).
Decisions in the casesâ€”U.S. v. June and U.S. v. Wongâ€”could have widespread impact on how members and former members of the U.S. military, and their families, can pursue tort claims against the federal government.
George Masonâ€™s clinic, which offers legal services at no cost to military and veteran clients, made the filings with the assistance of international law firm Reed Smith LLP.
The cases challenge restraints that exist for the time period during which a claim can be filed with the federal government when seeking compensation for victims of negligence in the conduct of government activities.
â€œDue to the nature of where they work, live and play, active duty military members, their dependent family members and our veterans tend to comprise a very large portion of FTCA claimants,â€ says Laurie Neff, director of the Mason legal clinic. â€œIf the governmentâ€™s position is upheld by the court, members of the military, veterans and their family members will be adversely and disproportionately impacted.â€
The amicus briefs point out to the court that wounded servicemembers or servicemembers caring for injured family members may not be in a position to do the work necessary to file papers, obtain evidence or even learn the procedure to file.
â€œFamily members at home are typically overburdened and stressed by the deployment or are in a position that without the servicemember present they canâ€™t obtain the information they need,â€ Neff adds. â€œA servicemember or dependent family member may be hesitant to seek information beyond an initial request for fear of reprisalâ€ due to the rank structure of the military.
The Supreme Court will hear the cases in the current term.