/ June 8, 2008

Halliburton Suit Returns to District Court

The Federal 5th Circuit Court of Appeals decided last week to reverse and remand the Houston district court’s decision to throw out the case Fisher v. Halliburton in 2006. The decision was appealed by the families of several Halliburton workers who were wounded and killed in Iraq, arguing that Halliburton and its former partner KBR unnecessarily put the group in harm’s way.

Judge Gray Miller granted Halliburton’s 2006 motion to dismiss, stating that because the events took place in a war-zone and involved a political question (ie, judgment on the policy decisions made during the Iraq War) the court lacked jurisdiction:

“Here, the court finds that it cannot try a case set on a battlefield during war-time without an impermissible intrusion into powers expressly granted to the Executive by the Constitution.”

The Court of Appeals, however, took issue with this interpretation, noting that the case was brought by civilian employees against a civilian contractor. The court also found that “the tort based claims… can be separated from the political questions that loom so large in the background.”

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