KBR And Arbitration

Pema Levy writes about the impact of the KBR rape case in the context of the larger battle over mandatory arbitration:

The Franken Amendment, KBR president William C. Bodie wrote in a letter in January 2010, “promotes frivolous lawsuits.” It’s the most common argument trotted out in favor of arbitration, and it’s exactly how KBR painted the Jones case. Of course, no rape case should be called frivolous on its face, especially since Jones isn’t alone in reporting assault overseas. In 2008, The Nation Investigative Fund ran a story entitled “Another KBR Rape Case” about Dawn Leamon, a paramedic who says she was drugged and gang raped on a base in Iraq. Jones’ lawyer is currently working on the case of Anna Mayo, who says she was brutally raped while working for a Halliburton subsidiary in Iraq. In 2009, Jones testified that, through a foundation she set up to support women assaulted overseas, she had been contacted by a number of women who found themselves shut out of the courts after an assault.

The fact that Jamie Leigh Jones lost her case further undermines the already weak case for mandatory arbitration. It's not just that rape cases aren't frivolous. Widespread coverage of the Jones case made KBR look terrible, and yet it's impossible for them to argue that they were unable to get a fair hearing, and that an arbitration process grossly biased towards companies is necessary for that to happen. Defeat makes it even harder to argue that somehow, juries are incapable of rendering decisions on the merits. They can decide whether or not a given lawsuit is frivolous, that's what they're there for. Companies like KBR support binding arbitration because "fair" just isn't good enough. 

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