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Iraq war contractor KBR ordered to pay $85 million to Oregon soldiers

KBR verdict: $85 million awarded to 12 Oregon soldiers; KBR guilty of negligence, not fraud ~Mike Francis, The Oregonian

(The Associated Press) - Portland OR – November 2, 2012 -  A jury on Friday ordered an American military contractor to pay $85 million after finding it guilty of negligence for illnesses suffered by a dozen Oregon soldiers who guarded an oilfield water plant during the Iraq war.

After a three-week trial, the jury deliberated for just two days before reaching a decision against the contractor, Kellogg Brown and Root. The company was ordered to pay $6.25 million to each of the soldiers in punitive damages and $850,000 in noneconomic damages.

The suit was the first concerning soldiers’ exposure to a toxin at a water plant in southern Iraq. The soldiers said they suffer from respiratory ailments after their exposure to sodium dichromate, and they fear that a carcinogen the toxin contains, hexavalent chromium, could cause cancer later in life.

Another suit from Oregon Guardsmen is on hold while the Portland trial plays out. There are also suits pending in Indiana and West Virginia.

KBR witnesses testified that the soldiers’ maladies were a result of the desert air and pre-existing conditions. Even if they were exposed to sodium dichromate, KBR witnesses argued, the soldiers weren’t around enough of it, for long enough, to cause serious health problems.

The contractor’s defense ultimately rested on the fact that they informed the U.S. Army of the risks of exposure to sodium dichromate.

KBR was tasked with reconstructing the decrepit, scavenged plant just after the March 2003 invasion while National Guardsmen defended the area. Bags of unguarded sodium dichromate — a corrosive substance used to keep pipes at the water plant free of rust — were ripped open, allowing the substance to spread across the plant an into the air.

Attorneys for the 12 Oregon National Guardsmen focused on the months of April, May and June 2003, alleging KBR knew about the presence of sodium dichromate and took no action.

One of the soldiers’ key witnesses, a doctor, testified that hexavalent chromium caused a change to soldiers’ genes, leaving them more susceptible to cancer. KBR’s attorneys challenged that diagnosis, saying the soldiers’ witness was the only physician in the U.S. prepared to make such a diagnosis.

During the Iraq war, KBR was the engineering and construction arm of Halliburton, the biggest U.S. contractor during the conflict. KBR split from Halliburton in April 2007.

KBR has faced lawsuits before related to its work in Iraq. One of the more prominent cases, involving a soldier who was electrocuted in his barracks shower at an Army base, was dismissed.

A second case is still in Maryland federal court, in which former KBR employees and others who worked on Army bases in Iraq and Afghanistan allege KBR allowed them to be exposed to toxic smoke from garbage disposal “burn pits.” (Click HERE for original article)

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6 Comments

  1. Comment by Kevin Lyle:

    awesome….as a former KBR employee who was there at Qarmat Ali in April, May, and June, I applaud the verdict. Our soldiers need support. I do not believe that KBR employees were intentional regarding any lack of action…..sometimes you don’t know what you don’t know.

    KBR employees that worked at the site have no legal recourse.

    • Comment by Ms Sparky:

      I the KBR employee disputes are settled via secret binding arbitration. I think those have all been settled. But with the new information that has come to light, I wonder if those can be readdressed.

  2. Comment by Ms Sparky:

    Finally some justice from our courts! This is very good news for the other National Guard units and British troops who have pending suits against KBR. Yes, there will be appeals and hopefully the awards will stand. This and future awards will sure take a bite out of those quarterly profits. I wonder how the next conference call by Bill Utt will go.

    Great job to Mike Doyle of Doyle and Raizner, David Sugerman and the entire legal team that brought victory to these well deserving Oregon National Guard

    And…great job to all the Oregon National Guard who stayed in the fight and didn’t let KBR scare and intimidate you with their bully tactics!

    • Comment by KBR OBAMA & HOLDER WATCH:

      THE phone call from Rock Island contracting officers will go something like this. We sure hated to see you suffer such a loss as $85 Million, and we want our kickbacks to continue to our Cayman Island accounts for the Kickback fund, so we are going to award you a $ 5 Billion contract which you should more than be able to overcharge US and the taxpayers. Our contracting officers are trained in deception by the Army Contracting Command and our principal consultants are MAJ John Cockerham, MAJ Eddie Pressley, and MAJ James Momon. We still have our steering committee headed by GEN Joe Bass, so this will not be a problem. Obama and Holder are in our joint account and we better hurry and make this fly before Obama gets pushed out of office.

      • Comment by KBR OBAMA & HOLDER WATCH:

        A month between comments on this historic ruling ? These soldiers deserve more attention than this and we want to know how many cases are going to settle without a trial.

        KBR has received the message – the public, whose taxpayer dollars they were spending had a duty and obligation to those soldiers and to the DoD Contractors they were being paid to serve. And immunity and impunity just are not going to fly.

        There are millions of Americans who, when presented the facts are going to enter the same judgment. Any reasonable person would. It is unfortunate that DoD Contractors and soldiers are so trusting of their managment and superiors. Ultimately it is Contracting Officers that can sell their fellow soldiers and contractors out.

        Come on readers – let us know what you are hearing about KBR paying to right this wrong.

  3. Comment by Ralph Ira Macfarlane:

    Finnaly justice… Finnaly. Larry, I hope your one of the twelve. And I hope the rest of you get the justice due. Amen!

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