The first plaintiff to file under the Sergeant First Class Richard Stayskal Military Medical Accountability Act of 2019 has done so: Sergeant First Class Richard Stayskal is officially the first active service member to file a medical malpractice claim against the United States government under a new law that grants him, and others, the right to do so.
We have been following Sgt. Stayskal's campaign to pass the legislation named after him closely over the past year. After completing multiple tours (including being awarded a Purple Heart after he was shot in the chest in Iraq in 2004), Sgt. Stayskal's case began when he visited Womack Army Medical Center at Fort Bragg for chest issues. He was told he had pneumonia, despite the fact that medical staff made notes of a “possible mediastinal mass” and an “abnormality” that “needed” attention. He followed up with the medical staff at Womack again, still experiencing chest pain and other issues, and was again dismissed.
Sgt. Stayskal finally visited a civilian doctor, who accurately diagnosed him with Stage IV lung cancer. By the time he f received the correct diagnosis, the cancer had metastasized. His diagnosis was terminal.
Despite the fact that the errors made by the Army physicians would have been the grounds for a medical malpractice suit for almost anyone other than an active duty service member, Sgt. Stayskal was unable to file a claim based on something known as the Feres Doctrine, which prevents active-duty military members from filing lawsuits against the federal government. He, his family, and other advocates fought for months to overturn the doctrine, culminating in the new legislation which passed in late 2019.
Stayskal's claim alleges medical malpractice at Womack Army Medical Center. He is asking for damages of loss of quality of life, pain and suffering, mental anguish, disability and permanent impairment and disfigurement, depression and anxiety, shortened life expectancy, and loss of consortium. The Department of Defense has announced it is investigating the claims.
The lawyer representing Sgt. Stayskal gave the following statement concerning the claim: "I filed SFC Richard Stayskal's claim on January 1st, to ring in the New Year. We're honored that our bill passed in less than a year, especially after 70 years of unsuccessful attempts by many others. We don't want to waste any time pursuing recourse for the Stayskal family. We look forward to helping our Military families seek justice in 2020."