Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Lawsuit Filed Against US State Department

The families of three private security contractors - Joshua Munns, Jonathon Cote and John Young of Crescent Security Group, kidnapped in Iraq on November 16, 2006 and later beheaded - are suing the US State Department.

State Department sued in death of Anderson man, other contractors in Iraq
By Ryan Sabalow, The Record Searchlight, March 25, 2010
PDF of the suit accompanying the article Munns et al v. Clinton et al

Mark Munns of Anderson said in an interview Wednesday that the suit was filed in hopes of learning what U.S. officials know about the abduction and what steps they took to find his son, Joshua Munns, and the other men abducted with him. [...]

The suit demands the State Department pay the families their children's life insurance benefits because the contractors were working by proxy for the government at the time.

Crescent Security, the firm for which Munns and the other contractors worked, hasn't paid any death benefits owed to the contractors' surviving family members, the suit says.

The State Department also has been uncooperative in trying to help the family recover the money, the suit alleges.
Be sure to read the PDF of the actual court filing that accompanies the original article.

Looking over the suit, at the very least, it certainly sounds like Crescent Security held 'dead peasant' life insurance policies for its employees.

But what about injury and/or detention? If the Crescent Security insurance policy included Kidnap & Ransom (K&R), what kind of access did the insurance carrier provide to a hostage negotiator? If the company didn't carry injury and/or detention, then the families should qualify for benefits under the Defense Base Act regardless of whether or not Crescent Security carried DBA coverage.

Assuming precedent was set, William Palmer, Munns' attorney, may not be aware of a recent ruling from the Department of Labor in the case of Kirk von Ackermann who disappeared in Iraq on October 9, 2003.

An investigation by the Department of Defense determined von Ackermann was killed during a botched kidnapping by hostile forces. But because Kirk von Ackermann's employer failed to secure DBA insurance, there were substantial delays in awarding the survivor benefits due under the War Hazards Compensation Act. In late 2009, the Department of Labor finally issued a ruling finding in the von Ackermann family's favor and benefits awarded.

It all comes down to the question of just what kind and how broad was the war-risk hazard coverage Crescent Security carried on its employees.

One last thought on the suit...was Jennifer Foo the Casualty Assistance Officer assigned to the case as per the Missing Persons Act? Was Counsel appointed to represent the abducted men?

I've written about this before but just to recap: as American civilian contractors working in support of US operations in Iraq, the abducted employees should have been covered under legislation commonly known as the Missing Persons Act. Family should have received notification that counsel was appointed to represent the abducted men's interests within 45 days of detention. By Day 100, an unclassified summary report should have been provided to the men's family. At the one year anniversary, Day 365, they should have received notification of the meeting of a Board of Inquiry. If that board reached no definitive conclusion as to their whereabouts, additional inquiries should have been held which the family would have had the right to attend. Family could have passed concerns to the counsel as well as provide information and/or objections to any recommendations by the Board of Inquiry.

Additional Reading

The Business of Kidnapping - war-risk hazard premiums and hostage negotiators
February 16, 2010

Book - Big Boy Rules by Steve Fainaru
November 23, 2008

Munns et al v. Clinton et al in filings and dockets at
Plaintiffs: Mark Munns, Crista Munns, Dennis Debrabander, Sharon Debrabander and Lori Silveri
Defendants: Hillary Diane Rodham Clinton and Jennifer Foo
Case Number: 2:2010cv00681
Filed: March 22, 2010
Court: California Eastern District Court
Office: Sacramento Office
Presiding Judge: Lawrence K. Karlton
Presiding Judge: Senior Judge Lawrence K. Karlton
Referring Judge: Kimberly J. Mueller
Referring Judge: Magistrate Judge Kimberly J. Mueller
Nature of Suit: Contract - Other Contract
Cause: 42:1983 Civil Rights Act

Previous related posts

A Sliver of Justice - finding by the Department of Labor in favor of the von Ackermann family
Janaury 10, 2010

Defense Base Act vs War Hazards Compensation Act- non-hostile vs hostile Type of Casualty
December 23, 2008

Iraq Contractors and The Missing Persons Act - legal obligations of the US Government
July 24, 2008

The Defense Base Act/War Hazards Compensation Act Handbook is on sale through Loyola College of Law for $60. Call (504) 861-5441 or Toll Free at (866) 250-8617 to order. For more information, email:

1 comment:

Brandon Petermen said...

Looks like the case is over and was thrown out....

Mark Munns, et al v. Hillary Diane Rodham Clinton

August 20, 2012

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Morrison C. England, Jr. United States District Judge
On July 17, 2012, this Court issued a Minute Order ordering Plaintiffs to show cause ("OSC") why this case should not be dismissed for failure to adhere with Eastern District of California Local Rules, the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure and/or the orders of this Court. Plaintiffs' counsel subsequently responded to that OSC advising the Court of the circumstances giving rise to his failure to comply with the applicable rules and this Court's Orders. Good cause having been shown, the Court declines to impose sanctions at this time.
The Court is also in receipt, however, of Plaintiffs' Notice of Voluntary Dismissal of Defendants Lloyd's of London ("Lloyd's") and CAN Financial Corporation ("CAN Financial"), the only remaining Defendants in this action. Accordingly, Lloyd's and CAN Financial are hereby DISMISSED without prejudice pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 41(a)(1)(A)(I), and the Clerk of the Court is directed to close this case.