Settlement falls through in Blackwater civil suit

AP News
Posted: Nov 10, 2009 5:57 PM

A settlement in a civil suit against the government contractor once known as Blackwater has apparently fallen apart after a plaintiff's lawyer said a faulty translation prompted the decision to settle. But lawyers for the company argue that a deal's a deal.

Dozens of Iraqis, including the estates of victims allegedly killed by Blackwater employees, sued the North Carolina-based company earlier this year, alleging that Blackwater employees engaged in indiscriminate killings and beatings.

The two sides reached a settlement late last week, and the plaintiffs filed papers to dismiss the case. Terms were not disclosed, though one document states each side will pay its own attorneys' fees.

But the plaintiffs' lawyer, Susan Burke, said Tuesday that the decision to settle was based on a conversation with clients that was mistranslated. She wants to have the lawsuit reinstated.

Lawyers for the company, now known as Xe, say a deal's a deal and they want the settlement to stand.

Last month, a federal judge tossed out the plaintiffs' complaint, saying he would only allow the case to be refiled if they believed they could prove that Blackwater employees intentionally killed and beat innocent Iraqis. He said that allegations of acting recklessly or fostering a culture of lawlessness were insufficient to sustain a case under the relevant federal law.

The plaintiffs did refile their case, alleging that the company's founder, Erik Prince, and other Blackwater executives had "an intent to deploy a private army to kill and injure innocent Iraqis."

Blackwater held a contract to protect State Department diplomats stationed in Iraq.

The company has said the lawsuit "is much more about attracting media attention than about bringing legitimate claims to court."

Five Blackwater security guards are also facing criminal charges for allegedly killing 14 unarmed Iraqi civilians in Baghdad in September 2007. Those shootings are included among the allegations in the civil suit.