KBR lawsuit (re human trafficking in Iraq)

In August 2008, family members of 12 men killed in Iraq and a surviving worker filed a lawsuit in US federal court against Kellogg Brown & Root (KBR), a US military contractor in Iraq, and its Jordanian sub-contractor, Daoud & Partners.  The action was brought under federal trafficking law and the Alien Tort Claims Act and is based on, among other things, allegations of racketeering, trafficking, forced labour, slavery and false imprisonment. 

The plaintiffs claimed that the 13 men were initially recruited in Nepal to work in hotels and restaurants in Amman, Jordan.  Instead, they alleged that a Daoud & Partners representative seized their passports after they arrived in Jordan, and that they were later trafficked into Iraq to work at a US military facility.  Twelve of the men were killed by insurgents en route to the worksite in Iraq.  The 13th man, who travelled separately, was allegedly held in Iraq for fifteen months and forced to work in a warehouse under the supervision of KBR.  The plaintiffs argued that Daoud, KBR and their co-conspirators were parties to a trafficking enterprise.  They further alleged that both Daoud and KBR were responsible for the trafficking scheme – from the moment of recruiting the men in Nepal until their arrival in Iraq.  In a statement issued by KBR in response to the suit, KBR said that its employees were expected to adhere to a company code of conduct and complete ethics training that includes information about human trafficking.  In August 2013, the district court rejected some of the defendants' motions to dismiss, and ruled that the case may proceed to trial.  Specifically, the court dismissed the Alien Tort Claims Act claims against the defendants, but it allowed the claims under the Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act (TVPRA) against KBR to proceed.  In January 2014, US District Judge Keith Ellison reversed his September ruling, finding that the families cannot proceed on the basis that the TVPRA (amended in 2008 to allow extraterritorial claims) could not be applied retroactively to 2004, when the incident occurred.  In March 2015, the court denied the plaintiffs’ motions for rehearing and leave to amend the ACTA claim.  The court found that the plaintiffs presented no new legal authority, and identified no error in law or fact.  The plaintiffs appealed the dismissal. On 3 January 2017, a US court of appeals upheld the lower court's decision, ruling that alleged company's misconduct lacked a sufficient connection with the US.

This federal case followed an action brought in 2006 before an administrative court with jurisdiction over cases that involve workplace injuries at overseas military bases.  This action was brought by nine of the victims’ families against Daoud and its insurance company – Continental Casualty Company.  In April 2008, a judge in the U.S. Department of Labour’s Office of Administrative Law ruled that the men’s families were entitled to death benefits.  The fate of the 12 Nepali men was also investigated by the Inspector General for the United States Department of Defense, who confirmed the facts relating to their death.

- "Legal Blow for Families of Slain Nepali Workers", Bonnie Barron, Courthouse News Service, 27 Aug 2013
- “Nepalese killed in Iraq in 2004: Light at the end of the tunnel”, Suresh Nath Neupane, Kathmandu Post, 20 Apr 2009 
- “Cohen Milstein files suit against KBR for human trafficking”, Washington Business Journal, 27 Aug 2008
- “Families of Nepalese workers killed in Iraq sue KBR”, Reuters, 27 Aug 2008
- “D.C. attorneys win human trafficking case in Iraq”, Washington Business Journal, 16 Jul 2008   

- KBR: Mission, Vision and Values
- Cohen Milstein: KBR Ordered to Stand Trial in Human Trafficking Case, 23 Aug 2013
- Cohen Milstein: Nepali Laborers
- EarthRights International and Center for Constitutional Rights: Amicus brief in support of appellants and reversal, 1 Oct 2015

- [PDF] Ramchandra Adhikari et al v. Daoud & Partners, et al - Memorandum and Order, US District Court for the Southern District of Texas, 24 Mar 2015
- [PDF] Ramchandra Adhikari et al v. Daoud & Partners, et al - Memorandum and Order, US District Court for the Southern District of Texas, Jan 2014
- [PDF] Ramchandra Adhikari et al v. Daoud & Partners, et al - Memorandum and Order, US District Court for the Southern District of Texas, 23 Aug 2013
- [PDF] Ramchandra Adhikari et al v. Daoud & Partners, KBR et al - Complaint, 27 Aug 2008
- US Department of Labor Office of Administrative Law Judges : P.A. et al. v. Daoud & Partners c/o KBR, Inc. et al. - Decision & Order Granting Claimants' Motion for Summary Decision, 16 Apr 2008

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30 August 2013

The Global Lawyer: The State of Play After Kiobel [Subscription required]

Author: Michael D. Goldhaber, in Litigation Daily (USA)

For a zombie doctrine, alien tort had a lively late summer. [In August]…U.S. judges handed down no fewer than five post-Kiobel rulings. And although alien tort plaintiffs see four rays of hope, their most ambitious claim of all took a stake through the heart…Explosive alien tort claims against KBR and Arab Bank each failed…for lack of a strong U.S. connection. However, both companies continue to face claims under a different federal statute…[In]…Balintulo v. Daimler…Judge Jose Cabranes fired the fatal bullet by concluding: “[I]f all the relevant conduct occurred abroad, that is simply the end of the matter under Kiobel.” It was a sad moment for corporate accountability, but I can't quibble with his reading of Kiobel…[P]laintiffs can draw constructive lessons from the courts’ high summer human rights spree…[and] should try to assert parallel claims under federal laws that are expressly extraterritorial…Of course, each is limited to its own narrow circumstances...

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27 August 2013

Legal Blow for Families of Slain Nepali Laborers

Author: Bonnie Barron, Courthouse News Service (USA)

Supreme Court precedent leaves little legal ammo for the families of Nepali laborers who were executed after a defense contractor allegedly trafficked them into Iraq, a federal judge ruled. Ramchandra Adhikari is the lead plaintiff in the 2008 action alleging that U.S. military contractors duped 13 Nepali men into indentured servitude… Daoud & Partners and KBR, a former Halliburton subsidiary previously known as Kellogg Brown & Root, are named as defendants. Because "all relevant conduct by Daoud and KBR occurred outside of the United States," however, U.S. District Judge Keith Ellison dismissed the claims against them under the Alien Tort Statute last week…Though the judge also nixed the families' claim against Daoud under the Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act, he preserved the TVPRA [Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act ] claim against KBR…

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10 April 2013

U.S. Must Work to End Human Trafficking, Modern-Day Slavery on Government Contracts

Author: Steven Watt & Allison Frankel, American Civil Liberties Union [ACLU]

In 2004, Buddhi Prasad Gurung, a young man wishing to provide a better life for his family, left his village in Nepal for Jordan, where local labor recruiters had falsely promised him work in five-star hotels and restaurants…Upon arrival, the lucrative jobs in the luxury hotels did not materialize. Instead, his passport was seized, and he was transported against his will to Iraq to work for a U.S. government subcontractor called Daoud & Partners…Gurung and the families of the Nepali victims sued KBR [Kellogg Brown & Root] and Daoud in federal court for trafficking and forced labor…In September 2012, the Obama administration signed an Executive Order setting out new requirements to prevent trafficking and forced labor of anyone serving under government contracts…We hope this lawsuit and the new regulations will ensure that the U.S. government contracting process is no longer complicit in modern-day slavery.

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3 January 2011

Justice for contract workers in America's wars

Author: Jeff Jeffrey, National Law Journal [USA]

Cohen Milstein Sellers & Toll scored a million-dollar settlement in November for a Nepalese subcontractor who was killed while working in Iraq. It was the latest victory in the firm's campaign to enforce World War II-era legislation on behalf of foreign laborers working on U.S. bases in Iraq and Afghanistan. Agnieszka Fryszman, a partner at Cohen Milstein, said that, in the process of representing the Nepalese subcontractors, she and her colleagues uncovered a pattern: U.S. contractors were forcing workers to labor under "horrible" conditions and then summarily shipping them home when they were injured on the job…The firm began in 2006 to develop a pro bono niche in workers' compensation cases under the Defense Base Act. [refers to Daoud & Partners, KBR, Halliburton, Edinburgh International, URS Corp.]

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1 July 2010

[PDF] Investing in Decent Work: The case for investor action on forced labour

Author: Committee on Workers' Capital

...[T]his project focuses on institutional investors, and trade union trustees in particular, as they can influence the companies they invest in to have progressive policies and practices on forced labour. In doing so, the project emphasises that forced labour is as much an issue of investment risk, as it is a matter of social responsibility... First, forced labour is widespread and costly. Second, forced labour practices pose significant risks to shareholder value and third, although investors have taken some action to address forced labour, this action has been limited... Even so, the CWC proposes that institutional investors can leverage their rights as shareholders, build on existing policy frameworks and work with partner organisations to mitigate the observed barriers [to more effective and coordinated investor responses]. [refers to APG, Chevron, Daoud, Hytex, KBR, Nike, Norges Investment Bank, Total, Bombardier, DaimlerChrysler (now Daimler), Deere & Co, Ford, General Motors, Harley Davidson, Honda, JFE Holdings, Magna International, Nippon Steel, Russel Metals, Sumitomo Metal Industries, Suzuki]

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19 April 2010

ERI Submits Reports to the U.N. on U.S. Corporate Accountability and Human Rights Litigation

Author: EarthRights International

EarthRights International submitted two reports to the United Nations High Commissioner on Human Rights today, in connection with the U.N. Human Rights Council’s periodic review of the human rights obligations of the United States. The first submission, a coalition report coauthored by ERI, the International Network for Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ESCR-Net), the Center for Constitutional Rights, and the Western Shoshone Defense Project, evaluates the United States’ performance on corporate accountability for activities abroad or affecting indigenous people’s rights, including the areas of protecting against human rights abuses by corporations and providing remedies for corporate abuses. The second report, submitted by ERI alone, focuses on the United States government’s approach in human rights litigation in U.S. courts.

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19 April 2010

[PDF] Stakeholder Submission on United States Obligations to Respect, Protect and Remedy Human Rights in the Context of Business Activities

Author: Center for Constitutional Rights, EarthRights International, Western Shoshone Defense Project, ESCR-Net

This joint stakeholder submission analyzes the United States’ record in discharging its obligations to respect, protect and remedy in the context of human rights abuses involving business enterprises acting abroad and on or near indigenous lands in the United States.1 Businesses under U.S. domestic and extraterritorial jurisdiction…across the spectrum of industries have been implicated in, or found culpable for, inter alia, child labor, forced labor, extrajudicial killings and torture, abuses to the right to information, labor rights abuses, environmental abuses, gender discrimination, severe impacts to human health, and abuses to indigenous peoples’ rights…The State party is not doing enough to ensure that government agencies monitor and respect human rights in their dealings with private business projects. [refers to Blackwater (now Xe Services), Bridgestone, Caterpillar, Chiquita, KBR, Pfizer, Titan (now L-3 Titan, part of L-3 Communications), Unocal (part of Chevron)

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10 September 2008

Jordan eyes measure to stop human trafficking

Author: Gulf Times [Qatar]

The Jordanian government is considering drafting a law to combat human trafficking, primarily designed to protect rights of expatriates working in the country...The move came after authorities in Indonesia reportedly banned the travel of some 40 Jordanians who had been running bureaus in Jakarta for the recruitment of domestic helpers, accusing them of human trafficking...Jordanian agencies will co-operate with the embassies of the Philippines, Sri Lanka and Indonesia in order to...protect [domestic helpers'] rights...The Jordanian step came also in the wake of a lawsuit filed...by relatives of 12 Nepalese, who were abducted and executed in Iraq in 2004, against the US oilfield services firm KBR and a Jordanian subcontractor, Daoud and Partners, accusing them of tricking the men into working in the war-ravaged country.

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27 August 2008

Families of Nepalese workers killed in Iraq sue KBR

Author: Reuters

KBR Inc and its Jordanian contractor are being sued for human trafficking by a Nepalese survivor and the families of 12 other employees who were killed while being transported, allegedly against their will, to work in a U.S. military base in Iraq...The lawsuit, filed on Wednesday, says military contractor KBR and Daoud & Partners recruited the men in Nepal by promising them jobs at a luxury hotel in Amman, Jordan, but instead sent them to Iraq where all but one were kidnapped and killed... KBR would not comment on the lawsuit, but said in a statement that its employees were expected to adhere to a company code of conduct and complete ethics training that includes information about human trafficking...Daoud, which provided food, construction and transportation services at U.S. bases in Iraq, could not be reached for comment.

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27 August 2008

Human Trafficking Victims File Lawsuit Against US Military Contractors in Iraq

Author: Cohen, Milstein, Hausfeld & Toll

Victims of human trafficking and their survivors filed suit on August 27, 2008, in the United States District Court for the District of California against a prominent U.S. military contractor, Kellogg Brown & Root, Inc. (“KBR”), and its Jordanian subcontractor, Daoud & Partners (“Daoud”)...The trafficking victims include 13 Nepali men who were taken to Iraq against their will to provide menial labor at a United States military facility.

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