Government Contractors - Fifth Circuit Upholds Exclusivity of Defense Base Act Compensation Scheme for Injuries to Federal Contractors Overseas

On January 12, 2012, a unanimous panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit issued an opinion ending six years of litigation against KBR and Halliburton over injuries and fatalities to contractor drivers in an insurgent attack on a U.S. military supply-truck convoy in Iraq. This long-awaited opinion is a solid defense of the Defense Base Act (DBA) as the exclusive remedy provided by Congress for compensating workers who are injured or killed overseas while performing federal contracts. Over the past decade, the size of the DBA program has grown dramatically as the U.S. military relied heavily on contractor-provided support services to conduct operations in Iraq and Afghanistan. This opinion represents a good result for employers and employees alike, furthering the dual purposes of the Defense Base Act: prompt relief for employees, with limited and predictable liability for employers. Importantly for government contractors supporting contingency operations, this thorough opinion may discourage future employee lawsuits arising out of injuries sustained in high-risk environments.

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