U.S. Court of Appeals Finds Exclusive Remedy for Medical Negligence Injured Federal Worker

In 2009, Gary Williamson was a postal worker who sought damages under the Federal Tort Claims Act (FTCA) for medical malpractice on the part of the Department of Veteran Affairs in the treatment of injuries he suffered in his right foot. Williamson usually worked a walking route, walking up to 8 miles each day on the job. He was also doing other physical activities, including running and CrossFit, which could have contributed to the severity of his injury.

Because of his injuries, Williamson eventually received benefits under the Federal Employees’ Compensation Act (FECA): $79,379.66 in temporary total disability net compensation from March 20, 2010 through Oct. 25, 2012; $27,801.27 for medical expenses; and $19,974.19 as a lump-sum “scheduled award.” This federal statute is the federal law for workers injured on the job. This is the federal version of the workers’ compensation act that most states have, including Illinois.

In addition to the benefits he was receiving by way of FECA, Williamson sought damages under the Federal Tort Claims Act for medical malpractice by the V.A. for the treatment of his injuries, which included two unsuccessful surgeries. The U.S. District Court judge denied the government’s motion for summary judgment. On appeal, the Sixth Circuit reversed that order, denying the motion for summary judgment.

The court of appeals held that liability under FECA is “exclusive” of “all other liability of the United States” to the employee “under a Federal tort liability statute,” 5 U.S.C. ¶ 8116(c) (2012).

Because this exclusion applies broadly even when a work-related injury has been negligently treated by an entirely non-work-related federal hospital, Williamson may not recover under the FTCA.

In summary, the court of appeals held that the exclusive remedy for Williamson is the employee’s compensation claim that he made under the FECA, regardless of whether there was an intervening medical malpractice claim. That bar of a recovery is different than what might be found in Illinois state law when an injured employee suffers additional injuries at the hands of a medical provider because of medical negligence.

Williamson v. United States, U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit, No. 16-6105, 16-5979 (July 10, 2017).

Kreisman Law Offices has been successfully handling medical malpractice lawsuits, work injury cases, construction site injury lawsuits, birth trauma injury cases, traumatic brain injury cases, pharmaceutical defect cases and product defect cases for individuals, families and the loved ones who have been injured, harmed or killed by the negligence of a medical provider for more than 40 years, in and around Chicago, Cook County and its surrounding areas, including Villa Park, Bedford Park, Summit, Justice, Merionette Park, Evergreen Park, Orland Park, Burr Ridge, Western Springs, Northlake, Park Ridge, Buffalo Grove, Rolling Meadows, Northfield, Berwyn, Cicero, Joliet, Waukegan, Lake Bluff, Chicago (Greek Town, Gold Coast, Chinatown, Canaryville, Archer Heights, Lincoln Park, Pilsen, Pill Hill, Old Town Triangle, Wrigleyville, West Loop, Kelvyn Park, Hyde Park), Kenilworth, Geneva, St. Charles and Hinsdale, Ill.

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