Political Question Doctrine Requires Dismissal of Wrongful Death Suit Against Government Contractor in Iraq

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Earlier this month, in a lengthy and well reasoned opinion, a federal trial court relied on the Political Question Doctrine in dismissing a wrongful death action against a military contractor. In Harris v. Kellogg, Brown & Root Services, Inc., the court held that negligence claims asserted against a military contractor in connection with the performance of electrical services at a military base during the Iraq War were barred under the Political Question Doctrine. Harris v. Kellogg, Brown & Root Servs., Inc., No. 2:08-cv-00563, at 1 (W.D. Pa. July 13, 2012).

Staff Sgt. Maseth was electrocuted while showering at the Radwaniyah Palace Complex (“RPC”), headquarters for Special Operations Forces in Iraq. The plaintiffs claimed that Kellogg, Brown & Root Services, Inc. (“KBR”) negligently failed to employ certain safety procedures regarding electrical maintenance services at RPC. Plaintiffs alleged that KBR’s negligence caused an ungrounded water pump to fail, leading to Staff Sgt. Maseth’s death. Id. At 2–3.

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