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US civilian lawsuits against military contractors may overcome jurisdiction challenge

[JURIST] The US Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit [official website] Wednesday ruled [opinion, PDF] to remand a set of consolidated tort claims brought against military contractors in Iraq, holding that further factual development is necessary before determining whether the cases were nonjusticiable political questions. The plaintiffs allege [Bloomberg report] that military contractor Halliburton and then-subsidiary Kellogg, Brown & Root (KBR) [corporate websites] misrepresented the dangers of working in Iraq and knowingly sent employees into unsafe areas, resulting in injuries and deaths. In 2006, a federal judge in Houston dismissed [memorandum and order, PDF] the suits, finding that the court did not have jurisdiction to review wartime policies. The Fifth Circuit's opinion stated that the injury claims raised may not necessarily require the court to question the military's decisions. AP has more.

KBR contracted with the US military through the Logistics Civil Augmentation Program (LOGCAP) [official website; KBR information page] to provide exclusive civilian logistics support during Iraqi reconstruction; in recent years, the company has come under increasing scrutiny. In August 2006, a KBR subcontractor settled Iraq fraud allegations [JURIST report] with the US government for $4 million. Army officials later said they would modify LOGCAP to provide better guidance to KBR after a special investigator reported [JURIST report] in 2006 that KBR was violating US regulations.

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