[JURIST] A North Carolina state court judge Monday ruled that a wrongful death lawsuit brought by the families of four US contractors killed in Iraq against Blackwater Security Consulting [corporate website] could move forward after being stayed for nearly two years. The company has argued that the case should be litigated in federal court, but the US District Court hearing the dispute remanded the case to state court. That decision was upheld [opinion, PDF] by the US Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit, and Blackwater's lawyers are preparing to ask the US Supreme Court to consider the case. In October, Chief Justice John Roberts refused to issue a stay [docket] pending appeal. Lawyers for Blackwater have argued that cases against the contractor should be dismissed because the security firm is an extension of the military. An undersecretary of the US Army denied any legitimate ties between Blackwater and the military in her testimony in a congressional hearing two months ago
The lawsuit, filed in January 2005, alleges that Blackwater did not provide the four men with the proper weaponry or personnel to defend themselves when they encountered a group of insurgents who attacked their supply convoy in March 2004. The videotaped ambush showed the four men being burned and tortured. AP has more. The News & Observer has additional coverage.