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Oregon National Guard soldiers vs. KBR – Trial News

Larry Roberta and wife Michelle (Photo by Mike Francis / The Oregonian)

A Halloween word: Boo!lean. Also, a note about KBR’s financials and a doctor’s testimony
Mike Francis – (The Oregonian) – October 30, 2012 -The defense has rested in the case of Bixby et al., vs. KBR Inc. All that is left will be for the judge to instruct the jury and the lawyers to make their closing arguments. The jury will have the case early afternoon on Halloween.

A few notes from the afternoon, in descending order of importance.

1.) The medical expert called by KBR Inc., Dr. David Weill, a pulmonologist at Stanford University Medical Center, examined the medical histories of each of the 12 soldier-plaintiffs, dating from before, during and after their time in Iraq in 2003. In each case, he said, the symptoms the soldiers cite in the lawsuit — symptoms such as reflux disease, asthma and a skin rash — could not be associated with their service at Qarmat Ali. He said the symptoms included some pre-existing medical conditions, or weren’t reported until long after the deployment — too remote in time to be associated with exposure to hexavalent chromium nine years ago.

2.) Since Magistrate Judge Paul Papak has ruled that KBR Inc. remains as a defendant in this case, the soldiers’ lawyers seek to introduce some information about the company’s financial picture. That could be meaningful if the jury decides to award damages to the soldiers.

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KBR Must Face Guardsmen’s Toxic-Chromium Suit, Judge Says

Laurel Brubaker Calkins – (Bloomberg News) – August 17, 2012 – KBR Inc. (KBR) must face a trial on claims that it knowingly exposed U.S. troops to toxic chromium dust in 2003 while they were guarding a company work site in Iraq, a Houston judge ruled.

Dozens of U.S. national guardsmen from Indiana and West Virginia have sued the Houston-based military contractor over health problems they blame on exposure to hexavalent chromium dust, a carcinogenic orange-yellow powder used to fight corrosion in water pipes. The troops were guarding KBR workers as they tried to restore water treatment facilities at the Quarmat Ali oil production site.

KBR had argued the case couldn’t be tried without asking jurors to judge actions and decisions by the U.S. military, which is forbidden by law. U.S. District Judge Vanessa Gilmore yesterday rejected that argument.

“Because KBR played a significant role in assessing and responding to the hazards, the issue of whether KBR caused plaintiffs’ injuries may be resolved without second-guessing the military’s decisions,’’ she said in a 15-page ruling. She said the case could be tried without evaluating military policies or“expressing a lack of respect for the military’s decisions.’’

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Lawyers for Oregon soldiers rebut KBR’s argument about Qarmat Ali

Mike Francis – (The Oregonian) – July 26, 2012 – Lawyers for the soldiers suing KBR Inc. take issue with the defense contractor’s argument in the case of a soldier electrocuted in Iraq

In a filing in federal court in Portland Thursday, they point out that Qarmat Ali, the water treatment plant in southern Iraq where Oregon soldiers provided security for KBR employees, was under the control of KBR, not the U.S. military. 

“KBR had the authority and responsibility to shut down Qarmat Ali when confronted with a safety issue,” the filing says, citing sworn statements from witnesses in the two federal cases filed by soldiers against KBR. 

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KBR, Guard lawyers argue about whether to go to trial; new Army report surfaces

Indiana soldier Kyle Wyatt – A photo of Quarmat Ali, the Iraqi water treatment plant, displayed by lawyers in court Wednesday – Photo The Oregonian

Mike Francis – (The Oregonian) – July 12, 2012 – A potentially important new document has emerged in the case of Oregon and Indiana Guard soldiers suing military contractor KBR Inc. over their exposure to a known carcinogen — but the public can’t read it.

Lawyers for KBR disclosed Thursday morning in federal court in Portland that the Army had delivered on Wednesday a new investigative report about events at Qarmat Ali, the site of a water treatment plant where soldiers were assigned in 2003 to provide protection to KBR contractors. But they said the report was marked for official use, so would be filed under seal.

Nevertheless, a KBR lawyer cited the report in arguing that it proves that the Army Corps of Engineers knew from at least May 2003 that Qarmat Ali was contaminated with sodium dichromate, an anti-rust compound that contains highly toxic hexavalent chromium.

Lawyers for KBR and a dozen Oregon Guard soldiers were back in court Thursday to argue about whether the soldiers can proceed to a scheduled jury trial in October. While the lawyers have been jockeying for months over expert opinions, the makeup of the plaintiff pool, the amount of legal fees and other issues, KBR hopes to avoid having the case reach a jury. Magistrate Judge Paul Papak suggested he will rule soon on the competing arguments.

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Federal judge sees no ‘smoking gun’ over Oregon soldiers’ claim that KBR knew about carcinogens

Indiana soldier Kyle Wyatt
A photo of Quarmat Ali, the Iraqi water treatment plant, displayed by lawyers in court Wednesday -The Oregonian

Mike Francis – (The Oregonian) – June 21, 2012 – The federal judge in the case brought by Oregon National Guard soldiers against defense contractor KBR Inc. expressed dismay and confusion Thursday about the soldiers’ lawyers’ claims that KBR had concealed what it knew about contaminants at an Iraqi water plant where the soldiers served.

“I don’t get this motion,” U.S. Magistrate Judge Paul Papak told the soldiers’ lawyers. “This isn’t a smoking gun in my view.”

In a motion two months ago, the soldiers’ lawyers sought information from andpenalties for KBR for hiding a pre-war contingency planning document they say was critical to knowing what the company knew about toxic contaminants at the plant. They said the document proved that KBR knew that the carcinogenic compound sodium dichromate was at the plant and didn’t tell the Army or the soldiers who served there.

But Papak, saying he was troubled by the way the accusation was apparently leaked to the press and its effect on potential jurors, said he considered KBR’s contingency support planning a matter of “historical common knowledge.” And he said the soldiers’ lawyers’ request for penalties “just kind of suprises me.”

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