TAMPA, Fla. (CN) - The United States may be responsible for a fatal head-on crash caused by a Marine who was driving drunk the wrong way on a highway, a federal judge ruled.
On April 25, 2010, Capt. Scott Sciple got in the car he rented through his contract with the Marine Corps and wound up 10 miles away, driving the wrong way on Interstate 275. He crashed head on into another car, killing Pedeo Javier Rivera Amador and injuring that man's wife, Carmen Rodriguez-Rivera.
Investigators found that Sciple's blood alcohol level after the crash was three times the legal limit. He had no memory of drinking that night, nor of how he arrived on the wrong side of the highway.
Less than a year before the crash, Scriple was injured from an enemy rocket during one of four deployments and was awarded the Purple Heart.
The captain's commanders reported that Scriple might be suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder. He had exhibited erratic behavior, flashbacks and memory loss, and he had been drinking regularly.
Scriple had been in Florida on the night of the crash because the Navy doctors ruled out traumatic brain injury (TBI) and cleared him for temporary additional duty (TAD).
Rodriguez-Rivera sued the U.S. government for two counts of motor vehicle negligence and two counts of negligent training.
The U.S. disagreed that Sciple was acting in the scope of his federal employment with the military at the time of the accident, but Rivera said that Sciple had already reported for duty to his command before the crash.
She claims that the United States misdiagnosed Sciple and should not have allowed him to be considered "fit for full duty." It allegedly knew or should have known Sciple has PTSD.
Citing the limited record, U.S. District Judge James Moody refused Wednesday to dismiss the two counts of auto negligence.
Moody did dismiss the claims of negligent retention and training, however, finding that the government's actions were discretionary.
"The medical professionals involved in Sciple's care exercised their professional judgment in assessing his health by implementing the practices described in the relevant policies," he wrote. "It is clear that the decisions of the health care providers who assess returning soldiers and conduct screening for health problems including PTSD and TBI require judgment as to which treatment options, if any, are necessary. This judgment also is reliant upon the information the soldier divulges with respect to his or her mental and physical health during the process."
Moody gave the government 14 days to answer the remaining counts.
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