Sample Law Essay on Levin v. United States (Prosecuted 15/01/2013 – Decided, 04/03/2013)

 Levin v. United States (Prosecuted 15/01/2013 – Decided, 04/03/2013)

Name of the Case

On January 15th 2013, the Levin v. United States suit was prosecuted and decided at the lower courts. The court of jurisdiction had to decide if Levin, who was a veteran, could present a battery claim suit against the U.S. government. Levin claimed that he suffered from medical injuries, negligence, and battery after undergoing a surgery performed by medical military personnel. The lower courts had to determine if Levin’s claim was prohibited under the “Intentional Tort Exception”, within the Federal Tort Claims Act. This resulted in a unanimous decision affirming that Levin’s suit had to be dismissed (Dean, 2013).

The Levin v. United States suit, argued at lower courts, was dismissed on the grounds that United States sovereign immunity under Gonzalez Act barred the judges from further hearing. Based on the Federal Tort Claims Act intentional tort exception, the United States government sought to dismiss Levin’s claims with regards to battery. This is because the Federal Tort Claims Act waives the government’s sovereign protection from tort suits. It therefore sought to deny responsibility on the medical battery claims laid by Levin (Gibson, 2013).

According to Steven Levin, the medical battery occurred after he underwent cataract surgery, performed by a military doctor.  As a result, he was determined to counter the government’s dismissal from the suit, based on the Gonzalez Act 1089(e). Through the Supreme Court, he affirmed that an exception is inapplicable if a plaintiff alleges suffering from healthcare battery by a military physician. He therefore claimed it was unfair and unethical for the lower District Court, provided under the United States government, to dismiss the motion. He asserted that the Ninth Circuit concluding 1089(e) serves to buttress immunity from personal liabilities contracted by military medical personnel. As a result, the Levin v. United States suit had to be arbitrated under the notion that the Federal Tort Claims Act intentional tort exception was not negated under 1089(a) (Dean, 2013).

The arbitrator writing the opinion was known as Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. He asserted that the court had unanimously held that the Intentional Tort Exception could not prevent veterans from bringing medical battery claims against the United States Government. The decision by a lower appellate court was therefore reversed, prompting and remanding for further proceedings. Justice Scalia’s opinion, however, differed from Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s based on footnotes six and seven; as a result, the suit had to be appealed (Dean, 2013).

Facts of the Case

Various facts were presented during the hearing of the Levin v. United States suit. Foremost, Steven Levin affirmed that he signed an informed consent to undergo cataract surgery known as phakoemulsification with intraocular lens placement on his right eye. The surgery was to be performed by Lit. Commander Frank Bishop under the United States Navy medical board in Guam. Levin also confirmed he revoked the consent twice: first after the surgical equipment was presented in the room and on a second occasion after he was anesthetized. The surgeon, however, did not acknowledge the withdrawal consents, prompting him to perform the procedure on Levin in March, 2003 (Dean, 2013).

Consequently, Levin suffered from medical complications after the surgery. He underwent continuous treatments without clear likelihood of success. As a result, Levin sued Dr. Bishop for medical malpractice, battery, and laxity. The United States government, however, replaced itself for Dr. Bishop by filing a proposition for summary ruling. The District Court granted the summary judgment on medical malpractice and negligence claims. It, however, did not consider the battery claims. United States government sought and filed for dismissal of battery claims. It alleged that, Federal Tort Claims Act preserves sovereign immunity against the battery claims. The District Court dismissed the battery claims for absence of subject-matter influence. Levin appealed the ruling. He however appealed on the battery claims to the United States Court of Appeal for the Ninth Circuit ignoring the medical malpractice claims. The Supreme Court agreed to hear the suit further by relinquishing the government’s sovereign immunity for common law on medical battery claims (Gibson, 2013).

Rule of Law

The resolution of the case was based on the Federal Tort Claims Act and Medical Malpractice Immunity Act also known as the Gonzalez Act. Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg was responsible in delivering the unanimous opinion that reversed the Ninth Circuit judgment. Under the Federal Tort Claims Act, a plaintiff is allowed to provide a claim against the United States. An alleged claim based on the intentional tort such as medical battery however denies the plaintiff to bring forward the tort claim. The Gonzalez Act also known as the Medical Malpractice Immunity Act states that, intentional tort exception to Federal Tort Claims Act should not apply certain tort claims based on either alleged wrongdoings or negligence within the medical field. The Supreme Court applied a basic connotation of the decree to hold that, the Medical Malpractice Immunity ought to nullify the Federal Tort Claims Act intentional tort exception. The nullification should be undertaken when a petitioner contends medical battery especially by a physician within the armed forces. This translated to Levin being permitted to progress with his suit against United States government (Gibson, 2013).

Application

The petitioner, Steven Levin, argued that he underwent surgery at a United States Hospital. He, however, suffered from various injuries after the surgery, such as a contracting pupil, corneal clouding, and severe corneal edema. These painful injuries, coupled with diminished visual acuity, caused him to suffer. As a result, he filed a court suit against United States and the surgeon at the lower courts. Through the suit, he sought to argue that Congress did not intend to pass Gonzalez Act for victims of medical battery to suffer under the intentional tort without recourse. He asserted that Congress aimed at establishing victims ought to direct their medical claims against the United States rather than individual personnel at the government. Conversely, United States government sought the Supreme Court’s position regarding the Gonzalez Act. It believed a waiver of the sovereign immunity could overturn the long standing model developed by the Supreme Court (Dean, 2013).

The Gonzalez Act under 1089(e) abrogates Federal Tort Claims Act intentional tort exception. As a result, it permitted Levin’s suit against United States based on alleged medical battery. This is because the battery was caused by a Navy physician who was performing within the range of his service. The Supreme Court therefore had to determine United States’ immunity for medical batteries. Levin claimed that the operative clause of 1089(e) provides the Federal Tort Claims Act intentional tort of exception to be applied during medical malpractice claims. This is because the introductory clause provides that qualified medical operatives at the navy and military are protected against alleged medical malpractices. Thus, medical personnel within the armed forces, as well as other specialized agencies, ought to be listed under the Gonzalez Act. More so, they are allowed to undertake their tasks within the scope of employment under the United States government. Levin, however, argued that the government and its medical personnel could not be protected from any medical liability without recourse. He argued that victims should be allowed to utilize the recourse to seek compensation for suffering due to medical malpractices (Dean, 2013).

Conclusion

Based on the holding of the case, United States government should not have dismissed or denied Levin’s claims. It should have acknowledged that he had reservations before undergoing the cataract surgery. Consequently, the navy medical practitioner should have accepted his two consents to withdraw from the surgery. As a result, United States should have accepted that Levin suffered from medical negligence and malpractices. It was therefore possible for Levin to suffer from medical battery. Under the Federal Tort Claims Act, the United States should have agreed and accepted Levin’s argument that the Ninth Circuit protects his rights against medical malpractices. Thus, the United States should have sought to redress Levin’s claims accordingly. Consequently, it should have compensated him for the suffering and pain.

Other Opinions

Chief Justice Roberts took note of the suit confirming that similar cases were being filed across various legal systems in the country. His opinion was based on the fact that the federal government has strong interests to take various positions during a suit. Suits against the government therefore provide the defendant with multiple positions for the court to take unexpected course of litigation. This leads to further confusion and indecision. His opinion was also affirmed by Judge Posner who stated that, some suits can be disingenuous. This is because laws change to suit the government’s position. These opinions therefore affirm that, Levin’s suit against United States was neither malicious nor prejudiced. They also affirm that, the ruling was fair to protect patients against medical malpractices (Josh, 2013).

Final Thoughts

My final thoughts are based on the conviction that the court’s ruling was fair due to various reasons. Firstly, I believe that Levin’s claims, that his pain, suffering, and injuries were due to medical malpractice, were genuine. He was therefore within the legal right to sue United States under the Gonzalez Act 1089(a) and 1089(e). More so, the court was right to affirm that both the Gonzalez Act and the Federal Tort Claims Act were enacted to improve medical ethics, practices, and safeguard patient’s welfare. The court was therefore within the legal boundaries to adjudicate that Levin’s suit against United States should proceed. This decision affirmed that medical battery, negligence, and other malpractices leading to patient suffering from other complications should neither be ignored nor assumed. The Gonzalez Act 1089 Title 10, providing sovereign immunity to United States against medical battery claims under the Federal Tort Claims Act  1346 and 2671- 2610 Title 28, should therefore be waived.

With regards to implications for healthcare administration, healthcare practitioners ought to accept oral consents from patients desiring to withdraw from a medical procedure. It is also possible for military medical personnel to repudiate performing various medical proceedings likely to lead to healthcare complications. As a result, veteran patients are likely to seek healthcare services from public medical institutions where practitioners’ scope of employment is not protected by the United States government. Conversely, civilians seeking healthcare services from military medical personnel lack provisions to sue for malpractices on tortuous Acts against the practitioner protected by the government on the scope of employment. Thus, medical malpractices are bound to occur within the navy, military, and civilian healthcare institutions.

References

Dean, C. (2013). Levin v. United States, Legal Information Institute, Congress Research Service.

Gibson, D. (2013). Supreme Court Round-up, The National Law Journal, 4(4): 1-45.

Josh, B. (2013). Court Notes Government’s Changed Position in Levin v. United States, Retrieved on 3rd Feb 2015 from: http://joshblackman.com/blog/2013/03/04/court-notes-governments-changed-position-in-levin-v-united-states/