Oregon National Guard soldiers vs. KBR – Trial Wrap-up
Some reflections on the KBR trial by a juror
Mike Francis – (The Oregonian) – November 4 , 2012 – I reached out to most of the jurors who awarded damages Friday to the Oregon National Guard soldiers and, so far, one has agreed to discuss the jury’s deliberations, on the condition that he/she not be identified. Here are a few bullet points from our conversation.
1. A consensus emerged fairly quickly that KBR was negligent in the way it operated at Qarmat Aliin 2003. KBR “displayed a level of incompetence you wouldn’t expect from a professional organization being paid well” to do its job, the juror said.
The jury was influenced by the fact that KBR eventually did shut down operations at the water treatment plant out of concerns over contamination by sodium dichromate, which contains the carcinogen hexavalent chromium. Yet KBR was present at the site beginning in March and operated there daily through the spring and summer. To think something changed that much at the site between March and August “defies logic,” the juror said. “There should have been enough red flags. They screwed up in not identifying it early.” (Click HERE for article)
KBR trial: Some morning-after observations
Mike Francis – (The Oregonian) – November 3, 2012 – While the trial felt like a marathon that ended in a Friday-afternoon frenzy, the KBR case is far from over. Or, as one of the soldiers’ lawyers told his clients in the moments after the verdict was read, “Don’t start writing checks yet.”KBR’s lawyers will ask Judge Papak to throw out the verdict for multiple technical reasons, including what’s known as “the political question.” Failing that, they will appeal.
The judge and the lawyers for both sides will confer by phone in the coming week about the next steps in the proceedings. One option may be that a second case involving other Oregon soldier-plaintiffs will be scheduled. (Click HERE for article)
KBR verdict: $85 million awarded to 12 Oregon soldiers for toxic exposure in Iraq; defense contractor guilty of negligence
Mike Francis – (The Oregonian) – November 2, 2012 – In a potentially precedent-setting verdict, a Portland jury found defense contractor KBR Inc. was negligent, but did not commit fraud against a dozen Oregon Army National Guard soldiers who sued the company for its conduct in Iraq nine years ago.
Magistrate Judge Paul Papak announced the decision about 3:35 p.m. the U.S. Courthouse in Portland. Each soldier was awarded $850,000 in non-economic damages and $6.25 million in punitive damages.
“It’s a little bit of justice,” said Guard veteran Jason Arnold, moments after the verdict was announced Friday afternoon. Arnold was one of four of the soldier-plaintiffs in the courtroom was the verdict was read.
The verdict should send an important message to those who rely on military troops, he said. (Click HERE for article)
While waiting for KBR verdict, judge ponders continuing ban on certain publicity
Mike Francis – (The Oregonian) – November 2, 2012 – Since shortly before the beginning of the trial in Bixby, et al. vs. KBR Inc., Magistrate Judge Paul Papak has kept the lawyers and their clients on a short leash. They were ordered not to communicate with the press, except to answer routine scheduling questions, and lawyers for the soldiers were ordered to take down websites related to the KBR litigation.
Before the court this morning came the question: What about after the verdict is delivered, whenever that is?
And the preliminary answer: The prohibition continues, at least until the lawyers can have a follow-up telephone conference, with one exception: Parties will be permitted to comment directly on the verdict.
This is an unusual situation, in that the 12 Oregon National Guard soldier-plaintiffs represent only about a third of the pool of plaintiffs who are suing KBR in Oregon. To make the trial more manageable, the judge and attorneys cleaved off the first 12 for the first trial. The rest still await their day in court. (Click HERE for article)
While we wait for a KBR verdict….
Mike Francis – (The Oregonian) – November 1, 2012 – One of the key reference works for chemical industrial compounds is a Material Safety Data Sheet, which are published widely. The MSDS for sodium dichromate came up frequently at trial. Here’s a version published by Science Stuff Inc.
It includes this passage, labeled “effects of overexposure:”
Acute and chronic: Material is extremely destructive to tissue of the mucous membranes and upper respiratory tract, eyes and skin. Inhalation may result in spasm, inflammation and edema of the larynx and bronchi, chemical pneumonitis and pulmonary edema. Symptoms of exposure may include burning sensation, coughing, wheezing, laryngitis, shortness of breath, headache, nausea and vomiting. Carcinogen, May alter genetic material. Damage to liver and kidneys. Target organs: Liver and kidneys. Persons with pre-existing disorders may be more susceptible. (Click HERE for article)
Jury gets the KBR case after lawyers make their final arguments
Mike Francis – (The Oregonian) – October 31, 2012 – Now, the case against KBR Inc. is up to the 12 Oregonians who’ve been sitting silently through all the testimony and arguments for the last 17 working days. Finally, the jurors may begin talking to one another about which side made a more persuasive case.
More precisely, they will discuss whether the lawyers for the dozen Oregon National Guard soldiers and veterans have proven that KBR was negligent or committed fraud in its conduct at Iraq’s Qarmat Ali water treatment plant in 2003.
In his closing argument Wednesday, the soldiers’ lawyer, Mike Doyle, told the jury that the defense contractor had carried out “the big lie” in the way it handled the presence of sodium dichromate, which contains a known carcinogen, at the water treatment plant where the Oregon soldiers provided security. (Click HERE for article)
KBR case Wednesday: Closing arguments are under way
Mike Francis – (The Oregonian) – October 31, 2012 – The soldiers’ lawyer, Mike Doyle, spent 90 minutes Wednesday morning describing what he called KBR’s “big lie” to conceal and misrepresent what it knew about sodium dichromate contamination at Qarmat Ali.
He told jurors that the company made a conscious decision at the outset not to clean up the contamination it knew was present, and then carried out multiple deceptions afterward in an effort to keep its work going.
He closed with a plea for the jury to make an example of KBR by awarding punitive damages on top of other damages.
He gave away to KBR’s lawyer, Geoffrey Harrison, who told jurors that Doyle and his team ignored substantial contemporaneous evidence showing clear communication in order to tell a story that painted the company in a false light. And he criticized Doyle’s efforts to stoke sympathy for the soldier-plaintiffs. (Click HERE for article)