A recent decision by the United States District Court for the Southern District of Texas may have caused grave damage to protections long available to overseas government contractors and their employees under the Defense Base Act ("DBA"), 42 U.S.C. § 1651 et seq.
In Fisher v. Halliburton, 2010 WL 1268097 (S.D. Tex., Mar. 25, 2010), the court ruled the deaths and injuries sustained by a group of civilian convoy drivers in Iraq during insurgent attacks were not "accidents" and, therefore, that they were outside the scope of the protections afforded by the DBA. Absent the DBA’s protections, the Defendant employers are now in the legal "line of fire" – for the hefty compensable tort and negligence damages being alleged. The court, through its own motion, submitted its decision for immediate interlocutory appeal to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit. If upheld, the decision could mean an end to the substantial protection from tort liability that the seventy-year old act has afforded contractors deploying personnel to support combat operations.
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