An appellate court decision this week will allow an area physician to move forward with a false arrest claim against the U.S. government, the doctor's attorney said.

Dr. Andrew Nguyen plans to proceed with his civil case against the government following a ruling by the U.S. 11th Circuit Court of Appeals, said Gainesville attorney Robert Rush on Friday. The circuit court issued an opinion earlier this week that reversed a lower court ruling, which had shielded the government from damages in the case on grounds of sovereign immunity.

"This is precisely the kind of factual situation for which Congress has expressly and specifically waived sovereign immunity," the court stated.

Nguyen, who is now 70, practices in Gilchrist County. He was arrested in March 2000 for six felony counts of delivering a controlled substance and held in jail on a $60,000 bond.

The case was later dropped by the State Attorney's Office, which cited insufficient evidence.

An affidavit in the case stated false information about Nguyen, alleging he hadn't conducted a physical exam on the woman who served as the confidential informant for officers, according to Nguyen's lawsuit. It also failed to note she had been the doctor's patient since 1997, the lawsuit states.

The doctor's arrest stemmed from a three-month investigation led by a U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration agent. But Nguyen's claims against the federal government as the agent's employer were dismissed because a district court found the federal government had immunity.

Instead, the lawsuit only moved forward against then-Gilchrist County Sheriff David Turner and a deputy.

In 2006, a federal jury found the deputy had violated Nguyen's constitutional right not to be arrested or have property seized without probable cause and had falsely arrested and maliciously prosecuted the physician. The jury also upheld a false arrest claim against Turner. Jurors awarded Nguyen $1,836,100.

That decision was appealed but later settled for a seven-figure amount close to the jury award, Rush said.

The appellate court's ruling not only allows Nguyen's claims to move forward against the government, Rush said. It impacts other cases where the issue of immunity under the federal statute for false arrest has been raised.

A representative for the U.S. Attorney's Office could not be reached late Friday.