Outsourcing of Navy SEAL Training May Have Led to Fatal Accident and Lawsuit

Sunday, January 26, 2014
Alex Ghane

The U.S. government’s penchant for contracting out services to the private sector even extends to live-fire training exercises for the military’s elite warriors—sometimes with fatal results.


In 2008, Shapoor Alexander “Alex” Ghane Jr. was a member of the Navy’s SEAL Team Five sent to the Mid-South Institute of Self Defense for a combat simulation that featured live ammunition.


During training at the Lake Cormorant, Mississippi, facility, Ghane was fatally wounded when a bullet pierced his chest just above his body armor. He was standing inside a so-called shoot house that was supposed to be protected by bulletproof walls.


But a naval investigation of the incident found the building was not designed or built according to established standards. The walls of the shoot house were less than half as thick as required by the Pentagon.


Investigators found that Mid-South failed to consult with a professional engineer “in the design, construction, or testing before placing the ballistic shoot-house walls into service,” according to the report.


Ghane’s mother, Narjess Ghane, sued Mid-South for wrongful death.


The defendant tried to get the lawsuit thrown out, claiming Ghane had signed a liability waiver and that the case would require the court to question military policy, “thus raising a political question that could not be handled in the court,” Jeff Gorman wrote at Courthouse News Service.


Mid-South won half its battle in trial court, where the judge agreed on the military-policy question. But the liability waiver argument was rejected.


The plaintiff appealed the ruling to Mississippi Supreme Court, which voted 6-3 to overturn (pdf) the judge’s ruling on the military policy matter.


“The defendants have failed to demonstrate that adjudication of this claim will require reexamination of matters inextricable from military policy and operational decisions,” Justice David Chandler wrote for the majority.


“This tort action is based on the failure of the ballistic wall - a wall independently designed, constructed and maintained by the defendants,” he added.


The court also affirmed the denial of Mid-South's request to dismiss the case on the basis of Ghane’s signing of a liability waiver.


“It is not reasonable to believe that SO2 Ghane, an experienced Navy SEAL, intended to release the defendants from following even basic safety standards in the design of the ballistic wall or the failure of the wall to perform as advertised,” Chandler wrote.

-Noel Brinkerhoff


To Learn More:

Training Facility May Be Liable for SEAL's Death (by Jeff Gorman, Courthouse News Service)

Narjess Ghane v. Mid-South Institute of Self Defense (Mississippi Supreme Court) (pdf)

SEAL's Death at Miss. Training Facility Raises Safety Concerns (by Louis Hansen, Virginian-Pilot)


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