Thursday, January 14, 2010
Should soldiers be allowed to sue private companies for injuries suffered during military service?
Last year, I posted a number of comments and updates on the Feres Doctrine which provides immunity to the government for injuries suffered while in the military. (Go to the "military/veterans" section of the blog for all the posts on this topic.) A new lawsuit filed recently will test the extent to which the doctrine should also protect private companies that work under contract with the government in war zones around the globe. The lawsuit was filed by a group of Indiana National Guardsman who allege that a mission to help clean up a water treatment plant in southern Iraq left them with fatal illnesses. The lawsuit argues that oil company KBR Inc. "disregarded and downplayed" the fact that the site at Qarmat Ali was coated with the hazardous chemical sodium dichromate and that, as a result, the soldiers suffered "unprotected, unknowing, direct exposure to one of the most potent carcinogens and mutagenic substances known to man." In products liability cases, courts have consistently held that government contractors are protected from liability if they can show that the product in question was manufactured following specific specifications requested by the government. It will be interesting to see if the court in this case follows this line of cases or creates a distinction. Go here for the full story.