But that kind of defense for contractors just about never works and it didn’t work for the storyline. (Turns out the contractor had entered the military minutes before the sexual assault. Wonder how often that happens?) Anyway, the Congressional Research Service put it this way in April 2001, report:
The Feres doctrine currently does not bar suits against government contractors working for the military, although some contractors have argued that it should be extended to preclude such suits, and some commentators have asserted that the Feres doctrine leads service members to seek damages from contractors that they could not recover from the government. Contractors have also attempted to assert derivative Feres or “intramilitary” immunity, although with little success. Where a party is immune from suit, the court cannot exercise jurisdiction over the claim against it.
Contractors indeed are doing some horrible things to U.S. soldiers, with the Pentagon often picking up the tab. Coincidently, last Friday, a jury in Portland Oregon ordered contractor KBR “to pay $85 million after finding it guilty of negligence for illnesses suffered by a dozen Oregon soldiers who guarded an oilfield water plant during the Iraq war.” Writes AP:
The suit was the first concerning soldiers’ exposure to a toxin at a water plant in southern Iraq. The soldiers said they suffer from respiratory ailments after their exposure to sodium dichromate, and they fear that a carcinogen the toxin contains, hexavalent chromium, could cause cancer later in life.
Rocky Bixby, the soldier whose name appeared on the suit, said the verdict should reflect a punishment for the company’s neglect of U.S. soldiers.
“This was about showing that they cannot get away with treating soldiers like that,” Bixby said. “It should show them what they did was wrong, prove what they did was wrong and punish them for what they did.”
Each soldier received $850,000 in non-economic damages and $6.25 million in punitive damages.
Another suit from Oregon Guardsmen is on hold while the Portland trial plays out. There are also suits pending in Texas involving soldiers from Texas, Indiana and West Virginia.
KBR’s appealing. Meanwhile, here’s the full episode of "The Good Wife."