For the first time since a lawsuit was filed in 2005 against KBR and its parent company Halliburton, plaintiff lawyers will be allowed to take depositions from employees of the two corporations, according to Scott Allen, a Houston-based attorney representing a number of the plaintiffs.
Allen says that depositions could start as early as September.
"They're basically desperate for the facts not to come out," Allen says. "Halliburton and KBR take the stance…that their conduct is beyond evaluation from U.S. courts."
U.S. District Judge Gray Miller ruled in 2006 that the court "…cannot try a case set on a battlefield during war time…" and dismissed the lawsuit. An appeals court overturned that ruling in May. Halliburton lawyers tried to have the case dismissed again, but Miller denied that ruling this week.
The lawsuit stems from the death of six KBR truck drivers in Iraq in April 2004. Allen contends that KBR management sent the drivers into an ongoing battle, despite warnings from KBR security officials.
"If my clients had been driving down the road, and a surprise ambush had taken place…and men had been killed, it would have been a tragedy, but I would not have filed this lawsuit for these families. If my men had been driving down the road and a surprise IED had gone off and killed some of them, it would have been a tragedy, it would have been sad, but I would not have filed this lawsuit," Allen says. "But you do not send unarmed civilians down a road in the middle of battle after you had hired them in Houston and told them you would not do this."
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The letter informs Stannard that he needs to sign a medical release form to be considered for the Secretary of Defense Medal for the Defense of Freedom. The form, which is included with the letter, is also an agreement for Stannard not to sue KBR.
"They tried to trick one of these men," Allen says. "It's despicable."
KBR representatives didn't respond to our questions, but in the past the company has claimed that the Army was responsible for routing and scheduling convoys. Here's a lengthy response they gave to National Public Radio back when the suit was filed.
-- Paul Knight