NEW ORLEANS (CN) – The 5th Circuit reversed dismissal of lawsuits accusing Halliburton and subsidiary military contractors of knowingly telling civilian truck drivers to take routes where Iraqi insurgents ambushed convoys, and killed or injured the drivers.
The court ruled that the tort claims needs further factual development to determine if they are barred by the political question doctrine, which prevents judges from answer political questions.
Surviving truck drivers and their spouses accused Halliburton and its subsidiary, KBR Inc., of falsely portraying the work that the drivers would be performing in Iraq as “100 percent safe,” assuring applicants that “(f)ull 24 hour a day U.S. military protection will be in place to insure safety.”
Drivers said they relied on these misrepresentations when agreeing to work for KBR, but that KBR deployed convoys in April 2004 to routes that had been attacked the day before and were “subject to a very high risk of insurgent attack.”
KBR also allegedly misrepresented the drivers’ ability to back out of dangerous situation, telling drivers they could “stop any activity which you believe to be unsafe,” but then failed to halt the dangerous convoys.
Some of the drivers injured in the attacks, along with the spouses of some who died, filed lawsuits alleging fraud, deceit, negligence, misrepresentation and wrongful death, among other causes of action.
The district court dismissed all of their claims with prejudice, holding that the cases raised issues about the government’s military conduct in Iraq, including its decisions on intelligence gathering, troop deployment and convoy protection.
Judge Southwick said it was too soon to dismiss, even if those political questions resurface on remand. “The litigation is not yet there, if it ever will be.”