The claims of civilian truck drivers injured or killed in Iraq may finally receive a thorough hearing in court. The drivers at the center of the issue have filed a lawsuit against former employer, Houston-based company KBR. An appeals court decision, sending the case back to the lower court that dismissed it two years ago, may finally give the drivers the chance to get their case heard
The lawsuit was created on behalf of drivers whose fuel convoy was ambushed in April 2004, leaving fifteen drivers injured, six killed and one still missing. The drivers were assured by KBR that they would only be sent into active combat if they had adequate protection. The lawsuit claims KBR knew the convoy would be attacked but dispatched it anyway. KBR, on the other hand, claims it is merely an Army contractor and the Army is responsible for the safety of convoys. T. Scott Allen, a lawyer representing one of the drivers and their families, points out the fact that civilians are being hired for work that used to be handled by the military, yet they are not being given the same protection as soldiers, nor are they given the rights of private employees.
The issue at hand is whether questioning KBR’s decision to send drivers into harm’s way second-guesses their employer’s judgment or whether the questioning challenges military decisions. Military issues cannot be reviewed by a court of law, while workplace issues can. This military issue led to the case not being heard in 2006 because the U.S. District Judge said the court lacked the authority to question military decisions. Recently, however, the appeals court said the claims against KBR can be separated from the issue of the Army’s role since the KBR contract does not put the company under the Army’s direct supervision. While the case has been sent back for a trial, further appeals might prolong the process. http://www.chron.com/disp/story.mpl/business/steffy/5810966.html