Reuters reports that Puerto Rican residents lost their case on Tuesday to force the United States to recognize the health effects on the local population from testing weapons and chemicals on the island of Vieques for decades.
The First Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals in Boston ruled that the federal government has immunity from the lawsuit.
For over six decades, the U.S. Navy used a portion of the island as a weapons-testing ground and firing range and for experimenting with chemicals from napalm to Agent Orange and depleted uranium.
Juanita Sanchez sued on behalf of her daughter and 7,000 others and accused the U.S. military of causing illnesses among inhabitants, including a 30 percent higher cancer rate compared to Puerto Rico's main island.
But the appeals court agreed with a lower court that it had to dismiss the case. Courts should be cautious about interfering with the exercise of military authority, Chief Judge Sandra Lynch wrote on behalf of two members of the three-judge panel. But the third judge, Juan Torruella, who comes from Puerto Rico, issued a vehement dissent. He wrote that the government was aware of the toxic impact of its activities in 1979 and its decision not to warn residents was not an exercise of the kind of judgment that is entitled to immunity.