WASHINGTON – Blackwater Security Consulting sued its attorneys, Wiley Rein, claiming the K Street law firm law firm botched its defense in a case filed by the estates of the four Blackwater workers who were killed, burned and hung from a bridge in Fallujah. Blackwater claims Wiley Rein should have removed the case to federal court, and cites four other cases that were successfully defended that way – four of them against Halliburton.
The underlying case was filed by Richard Nordan, as administrator for the separate estates of Stephen Helvenston, Mike Teague, Jerko Zovko and Wesley Batalona. The four men were killed on March 31, 2004, just days after arriving in Iraq. Photos of their charred corpses hanging from the bridge circulated worldwide.
The four men’s families sued in Wake County, N.C., Superior Court on Jan. 5, 2005, claiming that Blackwater skimped on security to save money, violating contract and putting the men at greater risk for what happened.
Blackwater claims Wiley Rein failed to do what most legal teams of private battlefield contractors, such as Halliburton, have done – remove the case to Federal Court. After losing a series of pretrial legal skirmishes, Wiley Rein withdrew as Blackwater’s legal counsel on Oct. 11, 2005. Blackwater’s new counsel, Greenberg Traurig, sought removal to Federal Court, which the 4th Circuit denied on Aug. 24, 2006.
Blackwater demands $30 million, claiming Wiley Rein’s negligence will hurt the firm of mercenaries in the underlying lawsuit and will hurt its business through “adverse publicity.”