Bourke v. United States, No. 21-1966 (7th Cir. 2022)Annotate this Case
Bourke was exposed to fumes during his employment with the Veterans Administration. He received treatment at a VA hospital and contends that medical malpractice there caused him serious injuries. He sought compensation from the Department of Labor under the Federal Employees Compensation Act for on-the-job injuries and from the United States under the Federal Tort Claims Act for medical malpractice. The Department of Labor processed Bourke’s claim but found that he had not shown that his asserted injuries had been caused by exposure to fumes. The VA (handling the FTCA claim) concluded that, once Bourke applied to the Department of Labor, all other sources of relief were precluded. Bourke sued under the Tort Claims Act, conceding the Department of Labor’s conclusion that conditions at work did not cause the medical issues for which he was treated by the VA, and alleging medical malpractice.
The district court rejected his complaint on the ground that the Federal Employees Compensation Act offers his sole avenue of relief.; once the Department of Labor adjudicates a claim, the applicant must accept the result because 5 U.S.C. 8116(c) forecloses other sources of relief and 5 U.S.C. 8128(b)(2) blocks judicial review of the Department’s decisions.
The Seventh Circuit vacated. Bourke is not seeking judicial review of the Department of Labor’s decision. Someone who loses before the Department cannot contest that outcome in court but may pursue other remedies that are compatible with the Department’s views.