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Woman ordered to pay KBR costs from Iraq rape suit

Thursday, September 29, 2011

A former KBR employee who sued, claiming she was drugged and raped while working in Iraq, is now being ordered to pay tens of thousands in court costs after losing the case.

The ruling was in federal court and under tort reform, we could see similar cases in state court. The changes mean more people will be out of some cash if their lawsuits aren't successful.

In this case, it means the woman who filed the lawsuit against KBR with claims related to the sexual assault she says she endured in Iraq in 2005 when she worked for KBR. The judge ruled the woman must pay $145,000 in court costs, and under the new "Loser Pays" tort reform passed by the state legislature in May, more people could end up paying if they lose a lawsuit.

Jamie Leigh Jones lost her federal lawsuit against KBR in July. She had claimed sexual harassment and hostile work environment among other things related to her claim that she was raped by another KBR employee in Iraq in 2005.

"The judge essentially had no choice but to award the court costs against Jamie because we lost at trial," Jones' attorney, Todd Kelly, said.

KBR didn't win $2 million in attorney's fees from Jones, nor did it win attorney fees from Kelly.

Something similar could soon happen in state-level courts, a result of the "Loser Pays" tort reform passed by the legislature last spring.

KTRK legal analyst Joel Androphy says it's an attempt to stop frivolous lawsuits.

"It all boils down to if you have a frivolous case you're running the risk of paying the other side for its fees and costs," Androphy said.

But Kelly says it may not work.

"I think the true frivolous lawsuits are brought by people who don't understand," he said.

In the KBR case, the judge found the lawsuit itself was not frivolous, even though she lost. The judge wrote, "The fact that Jones presented Prima Facie claims of sexual harassment and hostile work environment highlights the impropriety of an award of attorney's fees in this case."

"In that respect we're pleased with the judge's order, although we're disappointed that ultimately the law is as it is," Kelly said.

Jones' Attorney Todd Kelly says Jones was aware that if she lost she may be financially responsible but decided to move ahead anyway.

Meanwhile, under the state law, even if you win a case, you can still end up paying if the plaintiff makes a settlement offer that's refused and the court awards you less money than the settlement offer was worth.

(Copyright ©2014 KTRK-TV/DT. All Rights Reserved.)

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Tags:
iraq, kbr, local, adela uchida
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