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Contractors Enjoy Immunity For Carrying Out Congress' Will

Friday, February 12, 2010 03:01 am



Fellosea Ackerson, et al v. United States; Bean Dredging LLC; et al

Federal government contracts come with many headaches, but they also come with a liability shield to protect contractors from paying damages to disgruntled citizens. To seek shelter under this doctrine you needn't have been an "agent" of the government as long as you were clearly acting under a contract with the government.

A group of citizens sued 32 contractors who dredged the Mississippi River Gulf Outlet (MRGO) to recover damages sustained during Hurricane Katrina. A district court dismissed the case because the contractors had been acting "under authority granted by an act of Congress."

The citizens appealed, and the appellate court affirmed based on the 1940 Supreme Court decision in Yearsley v. W.A. Ross Construction Co., 309 U.S. 18, 60 S. Ct. 413, 84 L. Ed. 554 (1940).

In Yearsley, the Supreme Court determined that a contractorwho built dikes in the Missouri River under a federal go [...]

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