Another Tort Suit Dismissed Because of DBA Exclusivity

The United States District Court for the District of Maryland recently issued a Memorandum Opinion in Vance v. CHF International, wherein it held that the Defense Base Act (“DBA”) was the exclusive remedy for the plaintiffs’ tort claims.  The plaintiffs in Vance were the personal representatives of an employee killed while driving to work in Peshawar, Pakistan.  DBA benefits were paid following the employee’s death, but the plaintiffs sought tort damages in federal court. 

The DBA is a uniform, federal compensation scheme for civilian contractors.  It is the exclusive remedy for injured workers.  See Fisher v. Halliburton, 667 F.3d 602, 610 (5th Cir. 2012).   The decedent’s contract fell under the public works provision of the DBA.  See  42 U.S.C. § 1651(a)(4).  As explained by the court:

The work appears to constitute work performed under a service contract connected with a government-related construction project and work done in connection with the national defense.  The Program indicates that it is being undertaken to counter extremist influences in Pakistan, which is a goal of the United States’ war on terror.  The [P]rogram also includes construction projects such as rebuilding agricultural infrastructure in [Pakistan’s Federally Administered Tribal Area].

In addition to the common law torts, the District Court also dismissed the plaintiffs’ intentional infliction of emotional distress claim.  The court adopted the reasoning of the Fifth Circuit in Fisher, 667 F.3d at 618, which concluded that “allowing an injured employee to recover from his employer under this theory of intentional-tort liability would inject into the DBA’s workers’ compensation scheme an element of uncertainty at odds with the statute’s basic purpose: providing prompt reliev for employees, and limited and predictable liability for employers.”  

Because the DBA applied, the tort suit could not be maintained.

Vance v. CHF Int’l, No. 11-3210, 2012 WL 2367075, slip op. (D. Md. June 20, 2012).