KBR Loses Bid to Have Iraqi Court Hear Electrocution Suit

A federal judge has said no to KBR's move to have a (friendly) court in Iraq, rather than one in America, handle the lawsuit filed against the company by survivors of a Green Beret who was electrocuted in one of their facilities.

U.S. District Judge Nora Fischer, in Pittsburgh, denied the motion but did not rule whether the case should be heard in Pennsylvania, Tennessee or Texas, all of which have some claim to jurisdiction.

Iraqi law in such suits, by the way, does not allow an estate to obtain damages for a decedent's pain, suffering or emotional distress, which is nice. If you're a defendant.

Green Beret Ryan Maseth was killed in Iraq in 2008, electrocuted while taking a shower in a KBR-built facility.

"The Court understands that KBR's position in this litigation is that the Army was allegedly negligent in its decisions and actions related to housing soldiers in Iraqi buildings with known substandard electrical systems," Fischer wrote in her opinion. "By advancing the causation law under the Iraqi Civil Code, KBR argues that if that law were applied, the Army's negligence would subsume its own negligence, if any."

KBR has said the Army faced tough choices in how the facilities were to be built, and the electrocution of Maseth and others stemmed from those decisions.

Spokesperson Sheryl Gibbs told Courthouse News Service:

"Staff Sergeant Maseth's accidental death, while tragic and unfortunate, was not the responsibility of KBR," Gibbs said. "The Department of Defense Inspector General and other government entities have thoroughly investigated the Maseth incident and determined that there were multiple causes that contributed to the accident.

"The Army decided to place its soldiers in hard sided buildings that they knew were not bonded and grounded because they were safer than tents," Gibbs said, referring to vulnerability to mortar and rocket attacks. "The military, at the highest levels, was well aware of the shock and electrocution hazards at these and other facilities well before this incident."