Government argues it's not liable for Marine training death

1:33 p.m. August 11, 2004

SALT LAKE CITY The U.S. government has moved to dismiss a lawsuit filed by the father of a Marine who was fatally shot during training in California, arguing it can't be held liable for the death.

Attorneys maintain in court documents that Utah's federal court lacks jurisdiction over the claim under a 1950 U.S. Supreme Court decision.

Jon B. Purcell of Provo filed a lawsuit earlier this year alleging extreme negligence by the commanding general of the 1st Marine Expeditionary Force and other officers in the death of Pfc. Jeremy Ross Purcell, 19. It seeks more than $75,000.

Jeremy Purcell, a graduate of Jordan High School in Sandy, was shot to death at Camp Pendleton on Aug. 28, 2002, by another Marine who had mistakenly loaded his rifle with live rounds for a training exercise that was supposed to involve only blanks.

A Marine investigation into Purcell's death showed that several members of the 1st Force Reconnaissance Company had completed a live ammunition training exercise before going to another range for an urban exercise in which they were to fire blanks.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Jeannette Swent argues that a previous Supreme Court decision found that the government isn't liable for service-related injuries to soldiers.

However, Jon Purcell, who is representing himself in the lawsuit, is asking the court not to rely on that decision.

"This pernicious doctrine can be accurately described as one of the Supreme Court's most ill-conceived, inequitable and unjustifiable creations," he wrote in court documents.

No hearing has yet been scheduled on the government's motion to dismiss the claim.