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Williamson v. United States

United States Court of Appeals, Sixth Circuit

July 10, 2017

Gary Edward Williamson, Plaintiff-Appellee/Cross-Appellant,
v.
United States of America, Defendant-Appellant/Cross-Appellee.

          Argued: March 16, 2017

         Appeal from the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Kentucky at Lexington. No. 5:12-cv-00334-Joseph M. Hood, District Judge.

         ARGUED:

          Caroline D. Lopez, UNITED STATES DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE, Washington, D.C., for Appellant/Cross-Appellee.

          Jerome P. Prather, GARMER & PRATHER, PLLC, Lexington, Kentucky, for Appellee/Cross-Appellant.

         ON BRIEF:

          Caroline D. Lopez, Mark B. Stern, UNITED STATES DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE, Washington, D.C., for Appellant/Cross-Appellee.

          Jerome P. Prather, William R. Garmer, GARMER & PRATHER, PLLC, Lexington, Kentucky, for Appellee/Cross-Appellant.

          Before: BOGGS, ROGERS, and COOK, Circuit Judges.

          OPINION

          ROGERS, Circuit Judge.

         After recovering what amounted to workers' compensation benefits under the Federal Employees' Compensation Act (FECA) for injuries incurred as a postal worker, plaintiff Gary Williamson sought damages under the Federal Tort Claims Act (FTCA) for medical malpractice on the part of the Department of Veterans Affairs in the treatment of those injuries. Liability under FECA, however, is "exclusive" of "all other liability of the United States" to the employee "under a Federal tort liability statute." 5 U.S.C. § 8116(c) (2012). Because this exclusion applies broadly even when a work-related injury has been negligently treated by an entirely non-work-related federal hospital, plaintiff Williamson may not recover under the FTCA.

         At the end of September or the beginning of October 2009, Gary Williamson, an Army veteran and U.S. postal worker, began experiencing pain in his right foot. At that time, he was a mail carrier for the U.S. Postal Service (USPS) in Lexington, Kentucky. He usually worked a walking route, walking up to eight miles per day on the job. He was also doing other physical activity around that time, including running and CrossFit, which could have contributed to his injury.

         Williamson first visited the VA Emergency Department (VA ED) for his foot pain on October 26, 2009. The treating physician took X-rays and diagnosed Williamson with a sprain, but at trial, Williamson's medical expert testified that the October 26 X-rays show a navicular fracture in Williamson's right foot. Williamson next visited the VA ED on November 27, 2009, after stepping in a hole along his mail route and twisting his ankle. Again, X-rays were taken, and again the treating physician found no fracture.

         Williamson's pain persisted after a third visit to the VA in December. Later in December, Williamson's primary care doctor referred him to a podiatrist at the VA. On January 20, 2010, the podiatrist diagnosed Williamson with a navicular fracture in his right foot and prescribed "a CAM walker-a removable boot used to offload pressure from a patient's foot." Williamson's medical expert testified that this treatment plan violated the standard of care for treating a navicular fracture, which is six weeks of no weight-bearing in a cast. About one week ...


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