(CN) – The Department of Veterans Affairs had no duty to diagnose a Gulf War veteran with a parasitic disease and warn him that he could spread it to his wife and two children, the 6th Circuit ruled.
While in Saudi Arabia during the first Persian Gulf War, Arvid Brown Jr. contracted Leishmaniasis, a parasitic disease common in the Middle East that’s spread by infected sand flies.
Three years after returning from active duty, he married Janyce Brown. They had two children together, Asa and Helen.
The veteran allegedly transmitted the disease to his wife, who gave it to their children in utero.
After conflicting tests were performed on Arvid, his VA doctors finally determined that he was “for sure negative.” Dr. Gregory Forstall nonetheless ordered blood collected from Arvid’s wife and children. All tested positive for the disease.
Janyce and her two minor children sued the VA under the Federal Tort Claims Act in Michigan Federal Court, claiming the agency failed to properly diagnose Arvid and warn him that he could spread the disease to his family.
In March 2005, Janyce died of liver cancer. Though her lawyers never suggested that the cancer was caused by Leishmaniasis, they said she suffered seven years of disability due to the disease.
The government successfully moved to dismiss the case based on the Feres doctrine, which bars FTCA claims for military service-related injuries. The 6th Circuit partially reversed, saying the Act doesn’t apply to claims stemming from medical exams that took place after Arvid’s discharge.
On remand, the district court dismissed the Browns’ negligence and failure-to-warn claims.
The Cincinnati-based appeals court affirmed this decision. It found no evidence that the VA doctors should have known that Arvid had Leishmaniasis or that his infection posed a serious threat to his family.
Arvid’s wife and children “were not foreseeable victims of any failure by the VA to diagnose Mr. Brown with Leishmaniasis,” Judge McKeague concluded, and the VA owed them no duty of care under Michigan law.