Vietnam Veterans of America v. CIA

Summarized by:

  • Court: 9th Circuit Court of Appeals Archives
  • Area(s) of Law: Civil Law
  • Date Filed: 06-30-2015
  • Case #: 13-17430, 14-15108
  • Judge(s)/Court Below: Circuit Judge Fletcher for the Court, Circuit Judges Wallace and Schroeder
  • Full Text Opinion

Plain meaning of the Army Regulation 70-25 did not relieve the United States military of its duties to warn former test subjects of relevant information relating to their health as new information became available and provide medical care to those subjects.

From 1942 until 1975, the United States military used human subjects, many of whom were serving in the armed forces at the same time, to conduct chemical and biological weapons experiments. The plaintiffs, multiple veterans’ organizations, were the subjects of these experiments. Plaintiffs allege that the Army unlawfully failed to notify test subjects of new medical and scientific information relating to their health as a result of the experiments, as that information became available. Additionally, plaintiffs allege that the Army unlawfully withheld medical care for diseases or conditions proximately caused by the subjects’ exposure to chemicals during the experiments. The district court issued an injunction, forcing the Army to comply with their duty to disclose information relating to the subjects’ health, but did not require that it was it be made available through Veterans Affairs (“VA”). On appeal, the Ninth Circuit reviewed whether the district court erred in its holding. The panel held that the district court did not abuse its discretion in issuing an injunction enforcing the Army’s to warn subjects by updating subjects as new relevant information about became available because first the unambiguous text of Army Regulation (“AR”) 70-25 imposed this duty on the Army. Additionally, the Army had a duty to provide medical care to former test subjects even after the subjects were no longer participating – a decision to the contrary would be against public policy. Finally, the Army was not relieved of its duty to provide medical care notwithstanding the VA providing medical care to some former test subjects. The district court did not have authority to deny injunctive relief to the plaintiffs merely because another agency provided similar care. AFFIRMED in part, REVERSED and REMANDED in part.

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