On September 25, 2017, the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Texas denied KBR’s Motion to Dismiss as to Plaintiffs’ claims under the Alien Tort Statute, Texas law, and Iraqi law in Adhikari v. KBR Inc., Civil Action No. 4:16-CV-2478 (Adhikari II). The 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.”
As of April 1, 2018, the case is in discovery.
In this litigation, Cohen Milstein represents five Nepali men who were trafficked across international borders from Nepal to work on a U.S. military base in Iraq. The men believed they were going to work at hotels in Jordan and elsewhere, but instead their passports were confiscated, they were imprisoned and then taken against their will a U.S. military base in Iraq, where they were put to work for Defendant KBR, a U.S. military contractor, which provided support, including menial labor and services at U.S. military bases during the Iraq war.
Plaintiffs allege that after they arrived at the bases, they repeatedly appealed to KBR employees that they had been brought to Iraq against their will and wanted their passports back. After these verbal protests proved fruitless, the men refused to work and demanded to be sent home. Instead, they were deprived of food. After five days without food in the desert, they gave up their strike. They had no way home. KBR controlled access in and out of the bases. Each man ended up working for over a year.
The facts are similar to those Cohen Milstein brought on behalf of plaintiffs in another case, Adhikari v. Daoud & Partners, Civil Action No. 4:09-CV-1237 ("Adhikari I'). In that case, the district court found that the plaintiffs had presented sufficient evidence that:
- KBR’s conduct was knowing: “KBR knew that third country national workers had been promised jobs elsewhere and transported against their will to Iraq.”
- Each victim had been trafficked and had suffered unlawful coercion: “each man was deceived about his promised job; each man was promised a hotel related job in Jordan; each man’s family took on significant debt in order to pay recruitment fees; when the men arrived in Jordan they were subject to threats and harm; their passports were confiscated; and the men were locked into a compound and threatened.”
- KBR had the authority to exercise control and did exercise control over the recruitment and supply of trafficked laborers by the labor broker.
Unfortunately, after an intervening Supreme Court decision on extraterritorial jurisdiction, that case was dismissed on jurisdictional grounds. The claims in Adhikari II respond to the new jurisdictional framework.
Adhikari v. Daoud & Partners, Civil Action No. 4:09-CV-1237 (Adhikari I) received significant national and international attention, including multiple Congressional hearings, as well as being the subject of a book, The Girl from Kathmandu | Twelve Dead Men and a Woman's Quest for Justice, by Cam Simpson, published by HarperCollins (April 17, 2018).