Earlier this month, the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Georgia sided with (opinion) the family of Army Lt. Col. Dominic “Rocky” Baragona in their wrongful death claim against Kuwait Gulf Link Transport Company, a contractor providing vehicles and logistics services to the US Army and coalition forces. A head-on highway collision resulted in Baragona’s death as he was traveling to Kuwait to depart for the US.
District Judge William Duffy held that his court had jurisdiction over the foreign contractor, and that Iraqi law would govern the case after a report was prepared by a former Iraqi judge and a Saudi law professor retained by Plaintiffs. This report was uncontested due to the defendant never having appeared, and a default judgment was entered.
CNN legal analyst Jeffery Toobin said the court decision theoretically “does open the door to more lawsuits” against contractors, but that the Baragona family is a long way from ever seeing the money.
“It is always very hard to collect judgments against foreign companies and, when you overlay the chaos of Iraq, it makes it extremely difficult — if not impossible,” Toobin said.
Many comments to the CNN story express dissatisfaction that access to the “justice” and/or “compensation” accorded the Baragona family is not available to most victims of the war, be they Iraqi civilians or US personnel. While the technical accuracy of this sentiment is debatable, it is an understandable reaction.