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Plaintiff’s attempts to circumvent the Defense Base Act in negligence cases continue March 1, 2009

Posted by Aaron Walter in Uncategorized.
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7 comments

Reports of new attempts to pierce the protections afforded to employers under the Defense Base Act have been popping up throughout the news world.

The daughter of a Michigan man apparently killed by friendly fire is embarking on a wrongful death suit against KBR, who most disgustingly appears to have misled the family as to the nature of the employee’s death.

Also, see my previous posting regarding a this pending class action lawsuit against KBR.

Now, families of Blackwater security contractors recently lost their bid before a an Administrative Law Judge to sue Blackwater for wrongful death based on the contractors alleged status as independent contractors. I have neither read the opinion in this case, nor the briefs from either party, but I can imagine that Blackwater’s victory here was based on the traditional definitions of independent contractor agreements.

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Will the Defense Base Act foil the recent class action law suit against KBR? September 12, 2008

Posted by Aaron Walter in Uncategorized.
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22 comments

The Fulton County Daily Report has reported that a firm right here in Atlanta, Georgia has filed a class action law suit in Fulton County Superior Court against Kellog, Root, & Brown (KBR) alleging that the company has employed poorly trained and under-qualified workers in Iraq, leading to injurious results for countless fellow employees.

I could agree with that allegation. The problem is, you guessed it, the name of this blog – The Defense Base Act. But first, let me tell you the facts of this case as set out in the above article.

The suit in question is filed on behalf of Curtis “Bubba” Coffey, who was injured when a co-worker, a Kenyan national, who spoke little English, moved a wrecker in the wrong direction.  

“Coffey’s hand was caught in the truck’s machinery and his finger “mangled such that, even after multiple treatments and surgery, he does not have use of his finger.” The resulting pain means he can no longer work and requires heavy medication to sleep, according to the complaint.

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Fisher v. Halliburton – KBR Lawsuit Revived July 17, 2008

Posted by Herb Chestnut in Uncategorized.
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3 comments

Last month, in a somewhat surprising decision, U.S. 5th Circuit Court of Appeals reversed a District Court ruling that employees of KBR could not sue their employer in tort.  The opinion involved the so-called “Good Friday Massacre” where several truck drivers employed by KBR lost their lives when attacked by insurgents.  The plaintiffs sued KBR alleging, among other things, that KBR had falsely and fraudulently induced them to come to work in Iraq with the assurances of KBR that they would be completely safe.  The U.S. military was responsible for the protection of the contractors and KBR’s defense contractors used this fact to convince the lower court to dismiss the suit.

The theory behind the dismissal was the trial judge’s opinion that the plaintiff’s could not prove their case without necessarily bringing into question the Bush Administation’s policies and strategies for protection of civilians in Iraq.  This being the case, the claims of the plaintiff’s necesarily involved “political questions” regarding the Executive branch and the Judicial branch, the courts, are prohibited from interfering in the function of the Executive branch. 

While the theory of the defense was creative, it was a very harsh result due to the the facts of the case .  The plaintiffs in the suits (four suits were consolidated and decided together) alleged that KBR had assured potential employees that they would have “[f]ull 24 hour a day U.S. military protection…” to insure safety and that employees would be “…100% safe.”  On April 8, 2004, plaintiff Kevin Smith-Idol was injured when his convoy was attacked by insurgernts.  The next day, several more trucks were sent on the same route resulting in more injuries and deaths to KBR employees.  There were allegations that the route had been closed by the military and the Army had been engaged in a 48 hour battle with over 300 insurgents.  In summary, KBR sent unarmed civilians into not only a “war zone” but an active battle.

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Fisher v. KBR – Fifth Circuit to Consider Jurisdiction Over Contractors in Iraq March 7, 2008

Posted by Aaron Walter in Uncategorized.
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4 comments

The sad back story of this court case has come to be known as the “Good Friday Massacre.” Friday, April 9, 2004, hundreds of insurgents attacked a KBR convoy, killing 6 civilian drivers, injuring 14, and leaving another driver still missing to this day.

To make a long story short, KBR a former subsidiary of Halliburton has been accused of knowing that this particular convoy would be attacked, but sent these civilians into the firefight in a risky attempt to pad its bill to the Department of Defense. However, the factual arguments are on hold while a bitter fight ensues concerning jurisdictional questions.

The case, titled Fisher v. Halliburton, 454 F. Supp. 2d 637 (S.D. Tex. 2005), brings up a rarer situation than most Defense Base Act cases. The plaintiff(s) here allege that the Defense Base Act does not bar a traditional tort suit in federal court because the defendant, KBR, intentially harmed the injured and deceased drivers. The plaintiff is right, and though difficult to prove, this is a common exception in most workers’ compensation schemes, including the Defense Base Act and even the state laws here in Georgia.

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