Lawsuits against Government Contractors
Because California has so many military installations, there are many government contractors. And, like the rest of the business world, government contractors often find themselves in litigation. But the fact that they are government contractors places them in a unique situation. That is, many legal defenses can protect government contractors from lawsuits brought by civilians or employees. However, most attorneys are not aware of these defenses.
Want to File a Civil Lawsuit for or Against a Government Contractor?
If you are interested in filing a civil lawsuit, you very likely will need legal representation. Strauss Law Group usually represents employees on a contingency basis, meaning that we only get paid if we win. Contact Strauss Law Group now for a free case evaluation or call us 24/7 at (805) 641-9992 or (877) 641-9992 (toll free).
Strauss Law Group has been representing government contractors for many years. From our experience, we know the ins and outs of the defenses that can protect — or even absolve — government contractors from liability. Below is a brief discussion of some of these defenses.
The Federal Enclave Doctrine
Most, if not all, military bases in California (and in other states, for that matter) are “federal enclaves.” What that means is that the federal government has accepted jurisdiction over the land on which the bases sit.
If a person’s injuries occurred on a federal enclave, the action can be said to “arise under” federal law. If a plaintiff was employed by a contractor operating on the enclave and he was injured on the enclave, his claims are governed by the enclave’s law, rather than by state law.
Practically speaking, this means is that federal law most likely trumps state law on federal enclaves. For the most part, only state laws that existed when the federal enclave was established will continue to apply.
The decisive questions, therefore, are when the land on which the base sits actually became a federal enclave, when the laws in question were created, and when the plaintiff’s injuries occurred.
- Naval Base Ventura County, Port Hueneme became a federal enclave in 1942. If an employee sues his federal government contractor employer in 2009 under a state law that was created in 1986, then that law is most likely inapplicable and the employee’s claim under that law can be dismissed under the so-called “federal enclave doctrine.” However, if in the same scenario the employee sues under a state law that was created in 1935, then his state law claim cannot be dismissed under the federal enclave doctrine.
In the final analysis, the federal enclave doctrine can protect government contractors from most state law claims, including those for discrimination and/or harassment under the Fair Employment and Housing Act and for unfair business practices or false advertising under Business and Professions Code section 17200.
The Federal Officer Immunity Doctrine
Federal government contractors can avoid sometimes liability in situations where they act under orders by the federal government and they consequently injure a civilian. The rationale behind this defense is that, by carrying out a federal government order, the contractor is basically acting as the federal government. The federal government cannot be held liable in many situations where it injures a civilian, so those same defenses are imparted to the government contractor. The federal officer immunity doctrine, as this defense is called, can therefore be a very powerful tool to protect government contractors from liability.
Other Defenses for Government Contractors
Other defenses indeed exist for government contractors. Unfortunately, we cannot show too much of our hand. Strauss Law Group has spent years developing its understanding of the complex legal issues that exist in the government contractor relationship and implementing these defenses in court. However, we would be happy to discuss these issues with potential clients. Contact Strauss Law Group with your questions about how to lawfully protect government contractors from liability.