Lubbock mother accusing U.S. Army of medical malpractice, negligence in death of her son

Caleb Smither
Caleb Smither(Caleb Smither)
Published: Apr. 6, 2022 at 10:26 PM CDT
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LUBBOCK, Texas (KCBD) - A Lubbock mother is fighting the U.S. Army, who she claims did not treat her son’s head injury and left him alone to die for nearly six days.

Caleb Smither was only on the Fort Bragg base in North Carolina for seven weeks before his mother received word that he was found dead in his bunk.

His cause of death was bacterial meningitis, although hospital reports state he was throwing up water, sensitive to light, shaking and pale in the days before his death.

Private Smither was given goggles and forced to stay in his room. Criminal investigators found soldiers lied about checking on him.

Other statements from soldiers say they sprayed Febreze to cover the decomposing smell.

“Not only do we have medical malpractice, but we have gross negligence and not following orders. And it caused the death of my son,” Caleb’s mother, Heather Baker said.

Phone records indicate Smither didn’t contact anyone after Jan. 15. His body was found on Jan. 21. The Dept of Defense refuses to consider his phone records as evidence since his death was ruled natural causes.

“He was throwing up water. He hadn’t eaten. It’s peculiar to me how in the end, they can say that he had acute bacterial meningitis when acute bacterial meningitis is highly contagious,” Baker said.

Out of pain and frustration, Smither’s mother is trying a different approach to try and get justice from the Army.

The Supreme Court ruling in the Feres case found that servicemen cannot file lawsuits against the military for injuries or negligence, but in 2020, congress added an amendment, called the Stayskal Act, allowing service members to file an administrative claim in the case of medical malpractice.

In Smither’s case, the quality assurance report and death investigation remain ongoing nearly two years after his passing.

Baker’s attorney, Daniel Maharaj, said they have filed a claim, but the military conducts their own investigation.

“At the end of the day, if the Army decides to deny the claim, there is a route to appeal the claim; however, it is internal, again, directly to the same group,” Maharaj said.

Within the Army, Navy and Air Force, over 350 claims have been filed since the Stayskal Act was passed in 2020.

Only two claims were awarded the minimum of $10,000 to $20,000. The DoD was allotted $400 million for these relief claims.

“There’s still people out there. They’re allowed to keep their jobs, allowed to keep helping people, supposedly doing their jobs as medical staff. They’re not even certified properly, and they’re still out there. And they’re taking care of somebody else’s kid. They’re taking care of somebody else’s patriots. And that doesn’t feel good to me,” Baker said.

Recently, the Government of Accountability Office held a preliminary investigation by checking four random bases. It found that nearly one in six of the doctors did not have verified medical licenses before practicing and failed to document assessment requirements when treating someone.

Private Smither is just one of nearly 75% of our servicemen who die in non-combat, 93% of those being on U.S. soil, according to congressional research.

The GOA will have a full investigation including all bases in the summer.

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