Dep't of Veterans Affairs, 2023 WL 2274617 (9th Cir. 2023)
The United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit reversed a district court's decision to dismiss a medical negligence lawsuit against the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). The Ninth Circuit found that the VA had a duty to provide competent medical care to the plaintiff, and that the VA's breach of that duty caused the plaintiff's injuries.
The plaintiff, a veteran, alleged that he suffered serious injuries as a result of the VA's failure to properly diagnose and treat his cancer. The VA argued that it was not liable for the plaintiff's injuries because it was not a "health care provider" under the Federal Tort Claims Act (FTCA). The FTCA waives the sovereign immunity of the United States government for certain tortious acts, but only if the act was committed by a "federal employee acting within the scope of his office or employment, based upon the exercise of or the failure to exercise a discretionary function or duty."
The Ninth Circuit found that the VA was a "health care provider" under the FTCA because it provided medical care to the plaintiff. The court also found that the VA's failure to properly diagnose and treat the plaintiff's cancer was not a discretionary function. The court reasoned that the VA's duty to provide competent medical care was a mandatory duty, and that the VA's breach of that duty was not a matter of discretion.
The Ninth Circuit reversed the district court's decision to dismiss the lawsuit and remanded the case to the district court for further proceedings. The Ninth Circuit's ruling is significant because it expands the scope of the FTCA to include medical negligence claims against the VA. The ruling also makes it clear that the VA's duty to provide competent medical care is a mandatory duty, and that the VA's breach of that duty is not a matter of discretion.