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Federal Tort Claims Act and Contract Employees

Author: Portner & Shure

Earlier this month, a Roanoke U.S. District Court heard a case (Faris, Executor v. U.S. Wilson) in which the Plaintiff alleged that a physician at the Veteran Affairs Medical Center (VAMC) was negligent in recommending hormone therapy considering the patient's medical history and made the claim under the Federal Tort Claims Act (FTCA). It was later shown that the treatment did not cause the patient immediate harm and that the decedent did not suffer from injury until his cancer became "hormone refractory," a more advanced form of the disease. At the time of diagnosis, his disease was deemed treatable and non-advanced.

Despite these arguments, the court ultimately found that the physician who treated the patient was under a contract with a company named CompHealth - a staffing company that works in placing medical professionals. CompHealth contracted with the VAMC, which is how the physician was placed at the VAMC hospital. The contract stated that the government would have no control over the medical aspects of the services. This means that issues of medical judgment, treatments, and diagnoses were not controlled by the VAMC. Furthermore, CompHealth was the one who paid the physician and paid his medical malpractice insurance. In order to make a claim under FTCA, the cause of action must have arisen from a federal agency. Because the physician was not an employee of the VAMC, there is no jurisdiction under the FTCA for claims that arose out of the physician's negligence. Thus, the case was dismissed.

It is essential that when personal injury claims are filed, an expert attorney is there to advise the client of against whom the suit should be filed. A more knowledgeable attorney would have made an investigation as to for whom the physician worked before wasting valuable time and resources.

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