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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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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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