Will the Defense Base Act foil the recent class action law suit against KBR? September 12, 2008Posted by Aaron Walter in Uncategorized.
Tags: Fisher v. Halliburton, Good Friday Massacre, KBR, Tort
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.
Tags: AIG, KBR, Tort
Part of their argument is that KBR should not be able to “hide behind” what has been described by many bloggers as the “archaic World War II-era law” protecting KBR from liability for injuries to their employees in Iraq. That law, of course, is the Defense Base Act (as an extension to the Longshore and Harbor Workers’ Compensation Act).
It has recently come to light that KBR was running a bit a tax scam on the United States. Some surmise that this means KBR is admitting they are not a US Corporation and are therefore not entitled to “hide behind” the Defense Base Act. Several bloggers appear to figuratively point their fingers and laugh at KBR for their arrogance in trying to both benefit from US law and foreign tax benefits.
I have no love for KBR. I have already been critical of their unique tax accounting. Additionally, I have been critical of AIG, the insurer in 90% of DBA cases. They overcharged contractors for DBA insurance, at least for the first couple years of the war. Those bills were passed directly to US taxpayers, who essentially pay these premiums for every contractor over in Iraq/Afghanistan.
But, back to the topic at hand – lets say KBR, now a foreign corporation, should be found unable to claim refuge from negligence based personal injury actions by its employees. (NOTE: Even under the DBA, KBR could be sued in a personal injury/tort action if the injury were due to intentional actions by KBR). This would mean that the Defense Base Act does not protect KBR. Yeah! Lets all cheer and rejoice!
Tags: Defense Base Act, Fisher v. Halliburton, Good Friday Massacre, Halliburton, Iraq, Jurisdiction, KBR, Tort, U.S. Contractors
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.