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Zuckerman Spaeder LLP Gains Ground in International Case

April 11, 2008

Today the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit ruled in favor of a Zuckerman Spaeder LLP client who was kidnapped and tortured while working for a private contractor in the Philippines. This important win by partners Cy Smith and P. Andrew Torrez paves the way for a long-awaited trial.

The case involves Azhar Khan, an accountant who worked in the Manila office of the Parsons Corporation, a global construction firm. Khan was kidnapped in May 2001, and a ransom demand was sent to his employer, Parsons, which immediately seized control of the negotiations. Parsons refused to pay the ransom demanded while neglecting to provide Khan’s wife with the ransom demand so that his family could secure his release. Khan was then imprisoned for three weeks, chained to a cement floor, mutilated, and subjected to an attempted hanging. After three weeks, the kidnappers sent a portion of Mr. Khan’s ear to Parsons, who relented and finally paid the ransom that was initially demanded, which resulted in Khan’s release.

Following Khan’s release, Parsons sought to reduce his pay and benefits, reneged on commitments to pay his medical bills, and threatened to post Mr. Khan to another foreign office rife with kidnappings.

At issue on appeal was an obscure provision in Khan’s employment contract that, Parsons contended, required him to arbitrate his claims in Geneva, Switzerland at a cost of hundreds of thousands of dollars and without the benefit of discovery. Smith and Torrez successfully argued that Parsons had waived any benefit of the arbitration clause due to its prior efforts to dismiss the lawsuit on workers’ compensation grounds.

“Mr. Khan has been through an enormous personal and professional ordeal and what we wanted was for him to have his day in court,” said Torrez. “Today’s ruling ensures that he will have it.”

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