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Thanks For Your Service, Now Please Get Out Of Our Courtroom

The Supreme Court ruled against a veteran who was sickened by radiation in Spain in 1966 while cleaning up one of the worst radiation accidents in U.S. history.

The plaintiff, Victor Skaar, is an Air Force veteran in his 80s. He was seeking disability benefits for himself and anyone else who had been harmed in the event. He was denied class certification by a federal appeals court and the Supreme Court held that ruling in place.

The incident happened in January 1966 when a U.S. B-52 bomber and a refueling plane crashed into each other during a refueling operation in Palomares, Spain. According to the Associated Press, “at the time, the U.S. was keeping nuclear-armed warplanes in the air near the border with the Soviet Union. The midair collision resulted in the release of four U.S. hydrogen bombs. None of the bombs exploded, but the plutonium-filled detonators on two went off, scattering 7 pounds (3 kilograms) of highly radioactive plutonium 239 across the landscape.”

Skaar says he has suffered from skin cancer and a radiation-related disease called leukopenia.

Recall that the U.S. government tried really hard to deny that agent orange had damaged the health of Vietnam veterans until they could deny it no longer so this ruling seems consistent with the appetite to take responsibility for casualties of war. Given that nuclear war is a non-zero possibility right now, military personnel should take note.

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