Brown v. Gardner

PETITIONER: Brown
RESPONDENT: Gardner
LOCATION: Arkansas General Assembly

DOCKET NO.: 93-1128
DECIDED BY: Rehnquist Court (1986-2005)
LOWER COURT: United States Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit

CITATION: 513 US 115 (1994)
ARGUED: Oct 31, 1994
DECIDED: Dec 12, 1994

ADVOCATES:
Edward C. DuMont - on behalf of the Petitioner
Joseph M. Hannon, Jr. - on behalf of the Respondent

Facts of the case

Fred P. Gardner was treated in a Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) facility. Afterwards, he experienced weakness in his left leg, allegedly a result of the surgery. He claimed disability benefits under 38 U.S.C. 1151, which requires the VA to pay disability compensation if an injury occurs as a result of or is worsened by treatment. The VA and the Board of Veterans Appeals denied the claim, stating that the statute, as interpreted by VA regulation 38 CFR 3.358 (c)(3), requires that the claimant prove that the injury arose due to negligence or error by the VA facility. The Court of Veterans Appeals reversed the decision on the ground that the fault-or-accident requirement in 38 CFR 3.358 was not warranted by Section 1151. The decision was affirmed by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit.

Question

Is Department of Veterans Affairs regulation 38 CFR 3.358 (c)(3), which restricts disability compensation to injuries caused by accidents or negligence during surgery, consistent with the controlling statute, 38 U.S.C. 1151?

Media for Brown v. Gardner

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - October 31, 1994 in Brown v. Gardner

Audio Transcription for Opinion Announcement - December 12, 1994 in Brown v. Gardner

William H. Rehnquist:

I have the opinion of the court to announce in number 93-1128, Brown v. Gardner.

After having back surgery at Veterans Administration facility the respondent Gardner who is a veteran of Korean War experienced pain and weakness in his left leg.

He claimed disability benefits under the statute which requires the Veterans Administration to compensate veterans for an injury or an aggravation of an injury that occurs as the result of a Veterans Administration treatment.

The VA and the board of Veterans Appeals denied Gardner's claim.

On the ground that Subsection 1151 which is one of the sections of that law as interpreted by a VA regulation.

Only covers in injury if it resulted from negligent treatment by the VA or an accident occurring during treatment.

The Court of Veterans Appeals reversed holding that section 1151 neither imposes nor authorizes the adoption of the fault or accident requirement and the Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit affirmed that decision.

In the unanimous opinion authored by Justice Souter and filed today with the clerk of the court, we affirm the judgment of Federal Circuit.

The statute refer solely to a claimant's fault in not permitting compensation to those whose disabilities are the result of their own willful misconduct and without some mention of a VA's fault, it will be unreasonable to read the statute as imposing on the Veteran claimant the burden of demonstrating it.