Zachary Ryan Snow filed suit against the U.S. Marine Corps and recruiters Sgt. Compton and Sgt. Esquibel on June 28 in the Eastern District of Texas, Sherman Division.
Snow entered the USMC's Delayed Entry/Enlistment Program on Oct. 10, 2008. The program has a nonpay status and Snow was not entitled to any benefits or privileges.
Under the supervision of the Marine Corps, Snow participated in vigorous physical activity and instruction on July 9, 2009, in Denton.
"The temperature in Denton reached or exceeded 100 degrees Farenheit that day," the suit states.
Due to the high temperature, Snow claims he suffered a massive heat stroke and liver damage and had to be hospitalized.
Two thoughts: Snow's attorneys, Evan Lane Shaw and Colby Vokey of Dallas, claim the Corps was negligent for failing to follow its "Operational Risk Management and Heat Injury Prevention Program," for failing to ascertain that Snow was a "disgusting fatbody," and for failing to follow "orders to weed out all non-hackers who do not pack the gear to serve in my beloved Corps."
Well I made up that last part. Anything for a Gunnery Sergeant Hartman quote, you know. In fact:
Where was I? Oh. The lawsuit!
First, Snow is going to have a high hurdle to leap in order to get over the Feres doctrine, a draconian rule that prevents even inactive reservists from suing VA doctors for malpractice. The rule is good public policy in general, as we can't have soldiers suing generals for negligent command decisions and the like, but it's tripped many a soldier suing the government for negligence that seems utterly unrelated to service.
But perhaps as importantly, Texas law, which will govern the substantive rather than procedural aspects of the case, includes the defense of contributory negligence. It utterly bars a claim in which the plaintiff is more than 50% responsible for his injuries. Now if I exercise to the point of heat stroke in the hot sun I'm 100% responsible, even if others told me it would be a good idea, or that I had to do it. But I'm not a Marine.
In pressing this suit, Snow will have to follow in the footsteps of that other great non-Marine, William Calley, that he was "just following orders" as he exercised himself into a froth. Given that, in order to escape the Feres doctrine, Snow's suit essentially alleges that he was not a Marine (not being paid, not on active duty, on delayed enlistment status), that may be a tall order to fill.
Edit: Thanks to commenter Brewdogmike for a correction as to Lieutenant Calley's status, which incidentally improves the post.