On September 25, 2017 Judge Keith Ellison, U.S. District Judge, Southern District of Texas, Houston, ordered that KBR Inc. must face claims its U.S. managers “aided and abetted” human trafficking of Nepali laborers at company military-support job sites during the Iraq war. This order gives the laborers a chance to prove at trial that KBR’s state-side managers “supervised and supported” the alleged human trafficking and forced labor in Iraq, which “probably would not have occurred in the same way or to the same extent without KBR’s actions,” Judge Ellison said.

Case Background

In this litigation, Cohen Milstein represents the families of 12 men and one surviving laborer who were trafficked from Nepal to Iraq.  The men believed they were going to work at hotels in Jordan and elsewhere, but instead were instead taken against their will to work for a US military contractor at a U.S. military base in Iraq.  Unfortunately, the 12 men were captured by insurgents and killed on the way to the US base where they were to work. Their families and the surviving laborer filed suit against the contractor, KBR, in the United States, the only available forum. Plaintiffs brought claims against KBR and various KBR subsidiaries under the Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act (TVPRA), the Alien Tort Claims Act (known more commonly as the Alien Tort Statute, or ATS), and Iraqi law, as well as claims of false imprisonment, negligence, negligent hiring, negligent supervision, and intentional infliction of emotional distress.

On November 3, 2009, the court in Texas turned aside KBR’s effort to stop the lawsuit.  Judge Keith Ellison (S.D. Texas) held that plaintiffs’ claims may go forward. In denying KBR’s motion to dismiss, the Court found that the Trafficking Victim Protect Act applied to this suit; that trafficking and forced labor were violations of international law; and that the RICO violations could be prosecuted extraterritorially. 

On December 12, 2011, the court ruled that it has personal jurisdiction over the second defendant, Daoud & Partners.  Daoud & Partners, a subcontractor to KBR, earned 100% of its revenue from KBR and U.S. Government contracts during the relevant time period. 

Since both defendants’ motions to dismiss have now been denied, the plaintiffs are preparing to prove their claims at trial.