Federal Contractor Liability: The Hanford Decision

Caitlin Goetz


During World War II, the U.S. Government sought out contractors in the name of “patriotism” to research and develop nuclear materials for this country’s defense. Nearly seventy years later, we are still dealing with the effects of that research. However, the issue of who should bear responsibility for the long-term effects is still being argued. One of the major issues is whether those contractors are allowed to raise the federal contractor defense.

The common law federal contractor defense arises out of basic principles of governmental immunity. The defense protects government contractors from liability for any harm arising out the performance of a government contract, specifically in the areas of military and defense work, if the contractor was following the government’s directions and the work performed was in an area of “uniquely federal” concern.

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DOI: https://doi.org/10.5195/pjephl.2011.28


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