Jamie Leigh Jones was one of several women who worked for KBR (and former parent company Halliburton) who report they were raped, sexually assaulted, or harassed by fellow employees while acting as private contractors for the U.S. government in Iraq. Jones had sought damages against KBR but last month, a jury rejected her claims.
The defendants in Jones v. Halliburton, et al, have filed a motion seeking to recover more than $2 million in lawyer’s fees and court costs. KBR alleged that Jones’ rape and hostile work environment claims were “frivolous, unreasonable and groundless”.
According to the Wall Street Journal report, Jones’ response countered that there is “nothing frivolous” in her suit, and in fact, the judge agreed to let her proceed to trial where the jury deliberated for more than 10 hours before reaching a verdict.
Of course, if KBR had their way initially, the case never would have gone to a civil jury trial.
One of the considerations in the initial suit was the fine print in Ms. Jones’ employment contract that mandated her case against them go to a private arbitrator (selected and hired by KBR), instead of presenting the case at trial. After 15 months of forced arbitration, Jones successfully argued in federal court that the arbitration clause in her contract should not apply to cases of sexual assault.
No matter what you think of Jamie Leigh Jones case, forcing people into binding arbitration contracts denies their constitutional right to trial by jury, as guaranteed in the 7th Amendment.
Furthermore, many believe the idea that KBR is attempting to shake her down for millions of dollars is appalling: how can any lawyer help a catastrophically injured person bring a claim against a corporate defendant knowing that there is a chance that it could financially destroy them?
Share your thoughts – should plaintiffs have to pay for corporate defense lawyers?
Update: 9/28/11: Jamie Lee Jones was ordered to Jones was ordered to reimburse KBR for $59,508.43 in transcript fees; $13,395.91 in printing fees; $14,868.85 in witness fees; and $57,3000 in court-appointed expert fees, according to the judge’s ruling. See the Wall Street Journal article here