Overseas Civilian Contractors

News and issues relating to Civilian Contractors working Overseas

Iraq law won’t apply to Maseth wrongful death suit

By Brian Bowling  PITTSBURGH TRIBUNE-REVIEW    Friday, June 17, 2011

A defense contractor wasn`t in Iraq at the request of the government or because of its business climate, so Iraq has no interest in applying its civil tort laws to a wrongful death lawsuit brought against the company by the parents of a dead soldier, a federal judge ruled today.

The parents of Army Staff Sgt. Ryan Maseth, 24, a native of Shaler, are suing KBR Inc. for the Jan. 2, 2008, death of their son while he showered on a military base in Iraq maintained by the company. Cheryl Harris and Douglas Maseth claim shoddy electrical work by the contractor caused their son’s electrocution.

KBR had the maintenance contract for the base but claims it was not responsible for repairs and did not work on the pump.

The Houston-based defense contractor asked U.S. District Judge Nora Barry Fischer to apply Iraqi law to the lawsuit because Iraq`s laws would make it hard for Maseth`s parents to prove KBR was responsible for his death, limit the compensatory damages they could receive and prevent them from getting punitive damages.

In a 39-page opinion, Fischer noted that a report by KBR`s expert on Iraqi law failed to mention Coalition Provisional Authority Order 17, which made KBR and other defense contractors exempt from Iraqi law and, instead, makes them liable under the laws of the “sending state.”

Whether that state is Pennsylvania, the home of Maseth`s parents, or Tennessee, where Maseth was living before deployment, is still up for debate, but it`s clear that Iraq could care less if the family recovers damages from KBR, the judge says in her ruling.

The country may have benefited from KBR`s actions, she noted. “But, KBR certainly was not invited nor encouraged by Iraq‘s government to engage in business there. Instead, KBR‘s presence in Iraq was solely attributable to the United States` continued presence in that country after the initial invasion.”

Please see the original here

June 17, 2011 - Posted by | Follow the Money, Iraq, KBR, Legal Jurisdictions | , , , , ,

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