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Patricia O'Connell
Senior Communications Manager

Wiley Rein Files Amicus Brief on Behalf of NDIA Urging Dismissal of State-Law Tort Suits Against Contractors for Battlefield Conduct

October 11, 2013

On October 9, 2013, Wiley Rein filed an amicus brief in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit on behalf of the National Defense Industrial Association (NDIA) urging the court to dismiss a state-law tort suit against a civilian contractor for conduct that occurred on the battlefield in support of military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan.  NDIA’s amicus brief supports reversal of an $81 million judgment against KBR, Inc., in Bixby v. KBR, Inc., Case Nos. 13-35513 & 13-35518, for KBR’s performance of a contract in 2003 to rebuild a water treatment facility at Qarmat Ali in Southern Iraq.  Bixby is one of many cases around the country in which courts have imposed state tort liability for contractors’ conduct in support of the military in Iraq and Afghanistan. 

A team of Wiley Rein attorneys—partner Jennifer S. Zucker and associates Brett A. Shumate and Bryan Weir—drew on their respective expertise in government contracts and appellate litigation to highlight the impact this appeal will have on the defense industry and its ability to continue supporting the U.S. military.  NDIA’s Procurement Division Legal Committee also provided insight and review to the brief. In the Bixby case, the Ninth Circuit will examine whether and to what extent the combatant activities exception and the political question doctrine bar state-law tort suits against battlefield contractors for their operations in support of the U.S. military.  The ability of NDIA member companies to continue supporting the U.S. military is profoundly affected by the risks associated with operating in a wartime environment. NDIA’s amicus brief highlighted the immense support contractors have provided to the U.S. military over the last decade in Iraq and Afghanistan and outlined the serious consequences of imposing the tort laws of over 50 different states to battlefield conduct.   

About NDIA:

NDIA is America’s leading defense industry association promoting national security. NDIA provides a legal and ethical forum for the exchange of information between industry and government on national security issues. NDIA members foster the development of the most innovative and superior equipment, training, and support for warfighters and first responders through its divisions, local chapters, affiliated associations, and events.