Ortiz v. United States, No. 13-1500 (10th Cir. 2015)Annotate this Case
Captain Heather Ortiz was an active-duty service member in the United States Air Force. In March 2009, Captain Ortiz was admitted to Evans Army Community Hospital for a scheduled Caesarean section. Complications caused by the medical staff’s administering of drugs in preparation for the surgery caused a precipitous drop in Captain Ortiz’s blood pressure, leading to hypotension. As a result of Captain Ortiz’s hypotension, her baby, “I.O.,” was deprived of oxygen in utero, leading to severe injuries. The issue this case presented for the Tenth Circuit's review centered on whether the federal government was immune from damages for injuries its agents caused to the baby during childbirth. Resolution of the issues in this case was controlled by the Supreme Court’s decision in "Feres v. United States," which found that military service members were barred from bringing claims against the government under the Federal Tort Claims Act (FTCA) for injuries incident to their military service. Under the Feres doctrine, federal courts lose their subject matter jurisdiction over claims like this because the Tenth Circuit concluded the injured child’s in utero injuries were unmistakably derivative of an injury to her mother, an active service-member who gave birth at an Army Base hospital. "Feres is not ours to overrule. Applying controlling law, the government is not liable under the FTCA for the claims of negligence in this case."