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Fluor Says Conflict Requires Transfer of Afghan Bombing Case

May 10, 2021, 2:35 PM

Fluor Corp. said someone else must preside over a lawsuit accusing it of failing to stop a November 2016 suicide bombing attack in Afghanistan because the current judge has a presumed conflict of interest involving a family member, and 11 related cases have already been transferred to the other judge.

Winston Hencely’s suit, which was filed in February 2019, is one of 12 cases against Fluor pending in the U.S. District Court for the District of South Carolina that all arise from the same attack by a Taliban operative at Bagram Airfield, Fluor told the court in a May 7 motion.

Hencely, a U.S. army specialist severely injured in the attack, says Fluor negligently employed bomber Ahmad Nayeb as a private contractor at the base, while knowing he was a former Taliban member.

Fluor said the court advised the parties by email May 3 that Judge Bruce H. Hendricks—whose niece by marriage is one of the plaintiffs’ lawyers in those cases—has a presumed conflict of interest that disqualifies her from presiding over the othercases.

The court said disqualification is mandatory because Hendricks’ impartiality might be reasonably questioned, according to Fluor.

On May 4, 11 of the 12 cases cases were reassigned to Judge Joseph Dawson, III. Those 11 plaintiffs filed their suits between Feb. 3 and April 20 this year.

The Hencely suit also should be transferred to Dawson based on the same presumed conflict that resulted in Hendricks’ disqualification, Fluor said.

Hendricks’ niece has an interest that could be substantially affected by the outcome of this case. And the resolution of any issue in the case could affect the resolution of all the other cases in which her niece is counsel, Fluor said.

Plaintiffs in all the suits also assert identical negligence and breach of conflict theories, and Fluor will seek dismissal of all 12 cases based on a number of identical defenses, it said.

Nexsen Pruet LLC, Trey Gowdy Law Firm LLC, Hartline Barger LLP, and Covington & Burling LLP represented Fluor.

The case is Hencely v. Fluor Corp., D.S.C., No. 19-cv-489, motion to transfer 5/7/21.

To contact the reporter on this story: Daniel Seiden in Washington at dseiden@bloomberglaw.com

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Rob Tricchinelli at rtricchinelli@bloomberglaw.com; Steven Patrick at spatrick@bloomberglaw.com

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