Scott Bloch with assistance from Josh Gillelan, II, succeeded in winning death benefits for the widow of an Iraq war contractor who worked for KBR and had been subjected to multiple mortar attacks and witnessed other gruesome and stressful effects of war. Over the course of a couple of years, he developed psychological injuries and began acting extremely agitated. He returned home to deal with growing problems with his wife and daughter, but he could not cope with circumstances at home and within a month committed suicide.
The widow won at hearing, but KBR and AIG had appealed to the Benefits Review Board. The widow’s attorney had abandoned her and filed no brief on appeal, so the Board had only the view of AIG and KBR and reversed on questions of expert evidence and which psychiatrist was more believable regarding what caused the suicide – an intervening cause that had nothing to do with his stress from Iraq, or an unbroken chain of events that included the stress and heightened impulsiveness of a person who has been affected by Iraq.
On remand, the Judge determined that the weight of the evidence was in favor of reinstating benefits, and ordered AIG to pay back pay and pay going forward for all death benefits owing under the Defense Base Act.
“There is nothing more satisfying than to help a widow who had been abandoned not only by the contractor and the insurance company, but had also been mistreated by her own attorney whom she trusted to act in her best interests,” said Bloch about the outcome of the case. “Our client was very deserving,” he said. “Even when the system let her down she kept faith and fought on.”
To read the entire decision, go here Decision and Order on Remand Dill.