Tennessee Malpractice Law Being Challenged Over Soldier’s Suicide

February 8, 2016

A recent federal appeals court opinion could aid a Tennessee military widow’s efforts to hold the federal government responsible for her husband’s suicide.

The 6th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals has sent a case involving Scott Walter Eiswert back to a lower court, saying there is legal precedent that could be used to favor Tracy Eiswert’s contention that the government is at fault, the Knoxville News Sentinel reported.

U.S. District Judge Ronnie Greer said he was forced to dismiss the widow’s lawsuit in 2013 due to “procedural hurdles” the Tennessee legislature created when it made it harder for people to sue doctors and hospitals.

But in its decision last week, the appeals court cited several cases that were decided after the widow’s lawsuit was dismissed. Those decisions have cast doubt on the “strict compliance” requirements of the state’s medical malpractice law, the court said.

Eiswert, 31, of Greeneville, served in Iraq with the Tennessee National Guard for two years in 2003 before being honorably discharged in 2005. He committed suicide in 2008.

Before he died, Eiswert reported that he and his fellow soldiers were under constant threat from roadside or car bombs in Iraq, and that he was on the phone with a soldier friend when an explosion killed the friend. He also said he witnessed a blast that killed 93 civilians, many of them children. He suffered from insomnia, agitation, anger and other symptoms but was diagnosed with depression instead of PTSD, according to the initial lawsuit.

The U.S. Veterans Administration and the James H. Quillen Veterans Administration Medical Center in Mountain Home, Tennessee, have conceded that Scott Eiswert was not properly diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder.

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