WASHINGTON (AP) -- Declaring limits to the military's immunity from lawsuits by service members, a federal appeals court has upheld the right of a Navy pilot whose flight evaluation was leaked to an author to sue over violation of privacy.
The court ruled that lawsuits involving invasion of privacy should be heard and that damages could be assessed.
For decades legal precedents have protected the military from lawsuits by enlisted personnel.
Friday, a three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia voted to overturn a lower court ruling that former pilot Mary Louise "Missy" Cummings had no right to sue the military. Cummings had sued after her flight evaluation was leaked to an author of a book about pilots in which her ability was called into question.
Writing for the court majority, Judge Karen LeCraft Henderson said "whether members of the armed forces may sue the military for damages under the Privacy Act is a question of first impression. We answer in the affirmative."
Cummings was assigned to a squadron in Florida in 1994 for training on the F/A-18 Hornet strike fighter. A confidential performance evaluation the next year recommended that she lose her wings because of poor flying ability.
The report was leaked to Robert L. Gandt, an author researching a book on Navy fighter pilots.
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