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Patricia O'Connell
Senior Communications Manager

Supreme Court Calls for the Views of The Solicitor General in Case That Wiley Rein Filed an Amicus Brief Urging Dismissal of State-Law Tort Suits Against Battlefield Support Contractors

June 20, 2014

Washington, DC — On February 10, 2014, Wiley Rein filed an amicus brief in the Supreme Court of the United States on behalf of the National Defense Industrial Association (NDIA) in Kellogg Brown & Root Services v. Harris, No. 13-817.  The petitioner has asked the Court to grant its petition for a writ of certiorari to examine whether, and to what extent, the combatant activities exception to the Federal Tort Claims Act and the political question doctrine bar state-law tort suits against private contractors for their operations in support of the U.S. military on foreign battlefields.  NDIA’s amicus brief supports the petitioner’s request for the Court to decide these important questions presented. 

A team of Wiley Rein attorneys—partner Jennifer S. Zucker and associates Brett A. Shumate and Bryan K. Weir—drew on their respective expertise in government contracts and Supreme Court litigation to highlight the importance of this case.  NDIA’s Procurement Division Legal Committee also provided insight and review to the brief.

This week the Supreme Court called for the views of the Solicitor General of the United States on whether it should grant the Harris petition and the related petition in KBR, Inc. v. Metzgar, No. 13-1241.  The Court reviews thousands of petitions each year and seldom seeks the Solicitor General’s views on a particular case.  Such a request in the Harris and Metzgar cases signifies that the Court recognizes the importance of the questions presented in the petitions. 

The Harris and Metzgar cases are just two of many cases pending throughout the country in which courts have permitted state-law tort suits to proceed against private contractors for their support of the military on the battlefields of Iraq and Afghanistan.  As NDIA highlighted in its amicus brief, the proliferation of these cases arises from the immense support contractors have provided to the U.S. military over the last decade in Iraq and Afghanistan. 

Many experts have commented that the modern military could not operate properly without contractor support.  Because contractors face risks and costs operating on foreign battlefields, subjecting contractors to the state tort law for battlefield support will have serious consequences.  The inherent unpredictability of applying over 50 tort regimes to battlefield support will deter contractors from participating in future conflicts and interfere with the military’s ability to conduct warfare. 

A copy of NDIA’s amicus brief can be found here

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.