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Family of slain contractor sues Halliburton, KBR

HOUSTON (AP) -- A lawsuit against two military contractors claims the companies' mistakes led U.S. soldiers to believe an American truck driver working for the contractors might be an insurgent steering a bomb-laden truck onto a U.S. military base.

In a lawsuit filed in Houston this week, Kristen Martin accused Halliburton Co. and KBR Inc. of the wrongful death of her father, truck driver Donald Tolfree, who was killed at a Camp Anaconda checkpoint, about 50 miles north of Baghdad, in February 2007.

The lawsuit does not blame the military, instead casting responsibility on the companies' practices.

Tolfree, of St. Charles, Mich., was told he would be protected by U.S. soldiers at all times. Instead, because of negligence and fraud by Halliburton and KBR, Tolfree was killed by U.S. troops, said Guy Watts, Martin's attorney.

"He was recruited in Houston, oriented in Houston and assured of his safety in Houston," Watts said in explaining why the lawsuit was filed here.

Heather Browne, a KBR spokeswoman, said while the company has sympathy for Tolfree's family, it is neither liable nor responsible for his death.

Halliburton spokeswoman Diana Gabriel said her company has not been served with the lawsuit. But if it is related to KBR work in Iraq, Halliburton should not be named in the case, Gabriel said.

KBR, a major engineering and construction services company, was split off as a separate public company from Halliburton in 2007.

Martin has been negotiating with Halliburton and KBR since her father was killed, Watts said.

But questions remain about whether the companies initially told Martin that her father was killed by a roadside bomb. Tolfree, who was 52, died after multiple rounds from a U.S. machine gun were fired into the cab of his truck, according to the lawsuit.

An attorney who represented Martin two years ago said a KBR representative told her on Feb. 6, 2007, that Tolfree and another convoy driver were killed by a roadside bomb. The second driver survived.

According to Watts, the companies also cited a roadside bomb in a letter to Martin's U.S. senator nearly a year after Tolfree was killed.

Halliburton and KBR face several other lawsuits involving deaths in Iraq in federal court in Houston. Many have been lingering for years.

In the Tolfree case, Watts said he anticipates the companies will argue they are protected by the Defense Base Act from lawsuits over deaths in Iraq.

The full lawsuit was not available Saturday, and it was not clear what damages were being sought.