Case Studies



Partners Richard Beizer, David O'Brien and David Hammond.
Counsel Brian Tully McLaughlin.
Former associate Louisa Marion.

How to defend a defender

Years after the security firm Blackwater was hired by both the Department of State to provide personal protective services in war-torn Iraq and Afghanistan, and by the Department of Homeland Security to provide security services in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, two relators brought a False Claims Act suit against the company, four of its affiliates, and its founder. They alleged more than 16 claims under both contracts with a potential exposure of over $1 billion. The Department of Justice declined to intervene in the suit, which gained wide media attention.

Our team successfully challenged relators’ claims through motions to dismiss and for summary judgment. Before trial began, we had eliminated all claims under the Katrina contract, obtained a dismissal of all defendants other than the Blackwater entity awarded Department of State contract, and eliminated all but two claims under that contract. As a result of an aggressive motions in limine practice, we prevented relators from offering unfounded and salacious evidence to the jury. We also successfully precluded the relators from introducing any evidence of damages and eviscerated their proposed expert testimony. We further obtained declarations and testimony from the Department of State contracting officers contradicting relators’ allegations. Blackwater executives also took the stand to tell their side of the story and disarmed any preconceived notions about the security firm. We presented facts that, piece-by-piece over a two-week trial, exposed every one of the relators’ remaining claims as baseless.

The jury returned a verdict in favor of the company on all remaining counts. In addition, on December 8, 2011, the trial court awarded a judgment against the relators for $119,192 in costs relating to the trial. On December 6, 2012, the Fourth Circuit upheld the jury verdict and all evidentiary and other rulings appealed in an opinion that essentially adopted our arguments. The trial court’s decisions on our motions and the jury’s verdict, upheld on appeal, confirmed a complete victory for the clients, with the relators’ counsel sending a check to pay the $119,192 in awarded costs the day the Fourth Circuit issued its opinion.