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Wednesday, April 10, 2024 | Back issues
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Halliburton Can’t Shake Friendly Fire Lawsuit

(CN) - Halliburton and other U.S. military support contractors cannot escape a lawsuit filed by a woman whose father was gunned down by friendly fire in Iraq, the 5th Circuit ruled.

Kristen Martin claimed her father, Donald Tolfree, relied on the defendants' assurances that he would be protected by the U.S. military while working in Iraq.

Tolfree was driving a "chase truck," an empty semi-truck cab which could be used to help a disabled semi in a military convoy.

According to Martin, the convoy commander did not tell the sentry that her father was returning to camp after his truck was no longer needed for the mission.

Tolfree drove back to camp without an escort and died when an American gunner fired 100 rounds into his truck.

Martin also claimed that defendants falsely told her that her father was killed by a roadside bomb instead of by friendly fire.

The lower court denied defendants' request to dismiss the case for lack of subject matter jurisdiction due to a claim of official immunity. Justice Carolyn Dineen King ruled that she lacked subject matter jurisdiction to hear the appeal.

"Defendants cite several actions that they performed - allowing Tolfree's truck to return...without coordinating its return and training and supervising employees - but these do not rise to the level of being activities that involve policy-making work for the United States government," King wrote.

For that reason, King ruled that her court lacked jurisdiction over the lower courts' denial of the defendants' immunity.

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