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Supreme Court backs military contractor in Iraq whistleblower case


(Reuters) — The U.S. Supreme Court on Tuesday handed a victory to government contractor KBR Inc. by ruling that a law that extends the time frame for fraud claims committed against the United States during wartime does not apply to civil claims.

On a 9-0 vote, the court said that the Wartime Suspension of Limitations Act, which extends court deadlines during a time of war, applies only to criminal fraud cases.

The decision benefits KBR, which is fighting whistleblower claims alleging it defrauded the U.S. government over work it carried out in Iraq.

It was not a total win for the company, as the court sent the case back to a lower court for further proceedings. The ruling means that the case filed by former employee Benjamin Carter, who worked in Iraq as a water purification operator, could still continue.

Mr. Carter first sued in 2006 under the federal False Claims Act. The law allows individuals to sue on behalf of the government and claim a portion of the proceeds if the case is successful.

Carter said that although KBR billed the U.S. government for water purification services at two sites in early 2005, it did not actually start providing the service until May of that year.

Halliburton Co., which spun off KBR in 2007, is also named as a defendant.

KBR appealed to the high court after the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in favor of Carter in March 2013.

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