Iraq Shooting Suit Nixed for Lack of Jurisdiction

Courthouse News Service

Friday, March 28, 2014Last Update: 12:01 PM PT

Iraq Shooting Suit Nixed for Lack of Jurisdiction


(CN) – A British defense contractor need not face claims that one of
its mercenaries shot a U.S. soldier in the foot in Iraq, leaving him
disabled, a federal judge ruled.
While there is no dispute about the facts giving rise to Sgt. Khadim
Alkanani’s allegations, U.S. District Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson said the
court simply lacks personal jurisdiction over the U.K.-based Aegis Defense
Services Ltd.
Alkanani’s complaint in Washington D.C. describes his shooting by an
unidentified security guard for Aegis as he was returning from Baghdad
International Airport after an intelligence mission on June 3, 2005.
The U.S. Army contracted Aegis in May 2004 to provide security services
and anti-terrorism support in Iraq through November 2007. Aegis formed a
Virginia-based LLC, in which it held a 99 percent interest, to run
background checks on Americans that the UK parent hired.
In early August 2012, U.S. Magistrate Judge Alan Kay recommended
dismissing the case against both entities since there was no basis to hold
Aegis LLC liable for the actions of its parent company, and since there was
no personal jurisdiction over Aegis Ltd.
Though Alkanani did not oppose dropping the claims against the LLC, he
said four categories of documents would prove the U.K. parent’s “continuous
and systematic contacts” with the District of Columbia.
Two of those categories would purportedly reveal parent and subsidiary
as one and the same corporation, and effectively alter egos of one another.
Kay thwarted <> the
soldier’s plan however by finding that the soldier could compel the
contractor to produce only federal and D.C. income tax filings from 2006
through 2009. That ruling also significantly reined in the remaining request
for documents related to “business activity inside the district.”
Last year the judge recommended dismissing the case for lack of
personal jurisdiction.
Judge Jackson did just that Wednesday, saying the key to demonstrating
jurisdiction over a defendant is “showing that the defendant had frequent
and sustained contacts with residents of the forum state that were directed
at doing business in the forum such that the defendant was ‘essentially at
home’ there.”
Here, “Aegis UK’s activities in the District of Columbia – e.g., its
(1) contract negotiations and meetings with the U.S. government; (2)
website; (3) tax filings; and (4) contacts with non-government clients – did
not render the company ‘essentially at home’ here for jurisdictional
purposes,” the ruling states.
Jackson added: “None of these activities is sufficient to establish the
propriety of general jurisdiction over Aegis UK standing alone, and even
taken together, these activities fall short of the kind of ‘systematic and
continuous’ contacts with the District of Columbia that is required in order
for this Court to exercise personal jurisdiction over Aegis UK consistent
with D.C. law and the Due Process Clause … Consequently, the Court
concludes that it cannot exercise general jurisdiction over Aegis UK.”
Alkanani also failed to show that Coalition 35 Provisional Authority
Order Number 17 (CPA Order 17) – an order that the transitional government
of Iraq issued shortly after the war in Iraq began – confers personal
jurisdiction over Aegis UK with respect to lawsuits filed in the District of
Columbia, and that Aegis UK should be estopped from arguing otherwise in
light of its reference to that order in the context of prior litigation in
this district.
“This court has already concluded that D.C.’s long-arm statute and
constitutional due process preclude the exercise of specific or general
personal jurisdiction over Aegis UK under the circumstances presented here,”
Jackson wrote. “Thus, this court agrees with Magistrate Judge Kay that
nothing in the text of CPA Order 17 authorizes this court to exercise
jurisdiction over Aegis UK.”

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