April 26, 2006
Tort Suits and Private Security Contractors
The Nation this week has a lengthy piece on the use of private security contractors in Iraq, in particular focusing on the deaths of four employees of Blackwater. Much of it centers around a lawsuit filed by the families of four Blackwater employees killed on March 31, 2004 when they got lost in Falluja, and what their attorney alleges was a profit-motivated decision to provide non-armored vehicles.
In late 2004 the case caught the attention of the high-powered California trial lawyer Daniel Callahan, fresh from a record-setting $934 million jury decision in a corporate fraud case. On January 5, 2005, the families filed the lawsuit against Blackwater in Wake County, North Carolina. "What we have right now is something worse than the wild, wild west going on in Iraq," Callahan says. "Blackwater is able to operate over there in Iraq free from any oversight that would typically exist in a civilized society. As we expose Blackwater in this case, it will also expose the inefficient and corrupt system that exists over there."
The lawsuit, and the story, both provide a useful look at both the complications of using private contractors and, relevant to the purposes of this blog, at how civil litigation can provide not just recourse but also information.
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