Doctrines Exempting Government from Liability under Public Vessels Act

According to the “Feres doctrine,” the government is not liable for injuries to servicemen arising out of or in the course of activity incident to their service.  The same principle shall be applied to an action brought under the Public Vessels Act (PVA).  It was applied in Miller v. United States, 42 F.3d 297 (5th Cir. La. 1995) when midshipman was injured during training at the U.S. Naval Academy.  He suffered from physical and psychiatric problems and was honorably discharged, but the government was not liable under the PVA for injuries to the midshipman.

The US’s waiver of sovereign immunity provided in the PVA implicitly contains the discretionary-function exception.  However, the exception does not apply to operational decisions due to the reason that the principal of separation of powers requires the judiciary to refrain from interfering in the executive branch actions involving questions of public policy, economic expediency, and administrative practicability.


Inside Doctrines Exempting Government from Liability under Public Vessels Act