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KBR: Tax payers should foot the bill for our negligence

Doyle said the agreement may mean a taxpayer “bailout” for KBR. “It’s basically saying that no matter if we’re guilty of — willful misconduct, poisoning soldiers — taxpayers have to pay to cover us as well as whatever we decide to pay on lawyers at whatever rates and all these fees,” Doyle said. “That’s a pretty good bailout.” ~Huffington Post

Greta McClain – January 9, 2013 -Portland – After being found guilty of negligence in the  poisoning of at least a dozen US soldiers deployed in Iraq, KBR is insisting  that US tax payers foot the bill for damages.

In November of 2012, an Oregon  Federal Court awarded $85  million to twelve Oregon National Guard members who stated they were exposed to  a known carcinogen at the Qarmat Ali water treatment plant in Iraq in 2003.  The  National Guard soldiers were stationed at the facility to guard against attack  from insurgents.

During the trial, court documents  showed that the facility, operated by KBR Incorporated, stored massive  quantities of Sodium  dichromate dihydrate, a material known to cause cancer, as well as causing  damage to the kidneys, liver, heart and upper respiratory tract.   The documents  further showed that KBR was fully aware that the material was housed at the  facility and being used to keep water pipes from corroding.  KBR had previously  contended that it was unaware that the toxic chemicals were stored or being used  at the facility.

At the time of the ruling, Geoffrey  Harrison, attorney for KBR, claimed  the plaintiff’s lawyer used a “discredited” medical expert who presented  “unsupported medical opinions” that each soldier had suffered “invisible,  cellular-level injuries as a result of their exposure to hexavalent chromium.”   Harrison further stated that he planned to appeal the court’s decision.

Sodium dichromate is not a mild irritant. It is an extreme carcinogen. In November 2009, at age 52, Gentry died of cancer. The VA affirmed two months later that his death was service-related. ~Huffington Post
(The above is in reference to Lt. Col. James Gentry, Indiana National Guard)

Despite Harrison’s claims, a Reuters  report stated that KBR’s own documents noted that there was a “serious  health problem” at Qarmat Ali and that “almost 60% of the people now exhibit the  symptoms” of sodium dichromate exposure.

Nearly a month after the verdict was  rendered, KBR lawyers argued that the verdict was invalid  due to juror  misconducted, stating:

“{There are} clear indications this jury was exposed to  extraneous information or ex parte contacts [contacts from the plaintiffs’  attorneys only]. These circumstances are evidence of juror misconduct that may  warrant a new trial. This Court should allow KBR to conduct voluntary interviews  of the members of the jury to determine whether an evidentiary hearing is  necessary.”

The KBR attorneys further contend that  jurors could have “Googled” information on Qarmat Ali and used that information  in forming their verdict instead of the evidence presented in court testimony.   The federal judge disagreed however, saying:

“evidence was presented at trial from which a finder of fact  could reasonably have concluded that KBR was aware of the likely presence of  sodium dichromate at Qarmat Ali prior to beginning operations  there.”

Having failed to convince a jury that  they were not liable, and failing to have the verdict overturned due to  perceived juror misconduct, KBR is now arguing that when the company agreed to  work as a  contractor for the U.S. government, an indemnity agreement was signed  protecting KBR from legal liability.  That agreement, according to KBR, means  the federal government, not the company, is responsible for payment of the $85  million judgement, as well as the $15 million KBR has spent to defend itself in  the lawsuit.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers at  least partially disagrees with KBR, saying the litigation costs are not covered  by the indemnity agreement.

If KBR is successful in its latest  claim, it could mean that the American tax payers will be responsible for paying  out the $85 million dollar judgement. Michael Doyle, a Houston-based lawyer,  told the Huffington Post that the indemnity clause basically says:

“No matter if {they’re} guilty of — willful misconduct,  poisoning soldiers — taxpayers have to pay to cover {KBR}.  That’s a pretty  good bailout.”

(Click HERE for original article)

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