The estate of an Iraqi citizen shot and killed in Iraq sued a government contractor and the contractor’s foreign private-security corporation whose personnel allegedly shot and killed him. The suit was brought in United States District Court, District of Columbia. Estate of Manook v. Research Triangle Institute, International and Unity Resources Group, L.L.C., 693 F.Supp.2d 4 (Feb. 5, 2010). The District Court held that the government contractor was not subject to liability under Alien Tort Statute (ATS) or under the Tort Victim Protection Act (TVPA).

The government contractor with a United States Agency for International Development (USAID) contract rebuilding Iraqi infrastructure was a private rather than official actor and thus did not act under color of law to give rise to liability on claims alleging war crimes under the Alien Tort Statute. The purpose for which RTI contracted with USAID did not give rise to Plaintiff’s injuries.

Federal District Court has subject matter jurisdiction under the Alien Tort Statute when (1) an alien sues (2) for a tort (3) committed in violation of the law of nations or a treaty ratified by the United States. 28 U.S.C.A. Section 1350. But a corporation’s potential liability is limited only to state actors, and in very narrow circumstances. (Generally only states, and not corporations or individuals, are liable for international law violations.)

The Torture Victim Protection Act provides a cause of action for United States residents to sue foreign states for torture. It cannot be used to sue federal government officers or private United States persons or corporations.

For assistance with your government contract legal issues, contact government contracts attorney Karen S. Hindson.