KBR wants attorneys fees from woman who claimed rape
HOUSTON (Legal Newsline) - A former subsidiary of Halliburton wants Jamie Leigh Jones, the woman who alleged the company caused her gang-rape, to pay the attorneys fees it incurred defending itself against the lawsuit.
A federal jury ruled in July that Jones, whose case became a talking point for those who sought mandatory arbitration reform, was not raped in Iraq while employed by Kellogg, Brown and Root. The company moved on Aug. 17 to have its attorneys fees paid by Jones.
KBR spent more than $2 million on attorneys fees, and also seeks reimbursement for $145,073 in costs.
"Jones' fabricated story of being drugged and raped demonstrates that her Title VII claims are not only frivolous, unreasonable and groundless, but also that she brought these claims in bad faith," the motion says.
"Additional evidence of Jones' fabrication is that her story about the alleged rape has changed numerous times over the last six years. During trial the court acknowledged that 'she's told multiple stories' and noted the 'oddity of her memory working for certain periods in great detail and other periods not at all.'
"As Dr. (Victor) Scarano opined, Jones appears to have fabricated this story for financial gain. That is certainly supported by her numerous media appearances, the book she wrote, her contacts with agents and her movie deal."
KBR had argued a mandatory arbitration clause in her employment contract had prevented her from suing the company in open court. An appeals court sided with Jones on that issue, but jurors ruled in July that Jones and Charles Bortz had engaged in consensual sex.
Sen. Al Franken, D-Minn., was inspired enough by Jones' story to push through an amendment to the Department of Defense Appropriations Act in 2009. The amendment prevents the Department of Defense from entering into contracts with companies that handle sexual assault and harassment cases in arbitration.
The jury also ruled that KBR didn't fraudulently induce Jones into signing her employment contract.
Jones' case was chronicled in the movie "Hot Coffee," which premiered last month as part of HBO's summer documentary series. The movie's director, Susan Saladoff, is a medical malpractice lawyer who used the case to urge viewers to oppose mandatory arbitration clauses.
Those who support arbitration say it keeps the cost of settling disputes down, while personal injury lawyers oppose it because it keeps them from being paid.
Jones was seeking 5 percent of the net worth of KBR. She had claimed that she was drugged before the rape and KBR housed her in a shipping container after, denying her water, food and medical treatment.
"Throughout this trial, evidence was presented about the hostile work environment fostered by KBR," says Jones' response, filed Thursday. "The court permitted that claim to go to the jury, albeit only on an affirmative acts theory as opposed to omissions by KBR. KBR misstates that fact in its brief.
"What a miscarriage of justice if this victim of rape (regardless of the verdict rendered in this case) were to be ordered to pay this abusive conglomerate over $2 million in attorneys fees. Is the attempted bullying not readily apparent?"
The response says that even though Jones' case was not successful, it was far from frivolous.
From Legal Newsline: Reach John O'Brien by e-mail at email@example.com.