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Oregon National Guard soldiers vs. KBR – Trial Wrap-up

From left are Charles Seamon, Aaron St. Clair, Jason Arnold, attorney David Sugerman, and Rocky Bixby in front of the federal court, shortly after the KBR verdict was announced Friday afternoon. (Photo Motoya Nakamura / The Oregonian)

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.

Read the remainder of this entry »

Oregon National Guard Troops and KBR head back to court over expert testimony

Sodium Dichromate at the Qarmat Ali water treatment plant in Southern Iraq.

KBR, Guard soldiers due back in court in sodium dichromate case

By Mike Francis, The Oregonian  Sunday, June 17, 2012, 10:51 PM

After increasingly testy filings in U.S. District Court in Portland, lawyers for a set of Oregon National Guard soldiers and for defense contractor KBR Inc. return to court this week for two days of hearings.

Most of their arguments will focus on whether U.S. District Magistrate Judge Paul Papak should allow the testimony provided by experts on both sides.

The soldiers’ lawyers want to exclude the testimony of a doctor on the ways that toxic dust would disperse in the air at the Qarmat Ali water treatment plant in southern Iraq. They say the doctor relied on unreliable data and flawed methods to “downplay and misrepresent” the dangers to the Oregon soldiers and others assigned to guard the plant in 2003. They also seek to exclude testimony from Barbara Beck, a microbiologist who testified that the soldiers haven’t proven that their exposure to sodium dichromate, a carcinogenic compound present at Qarmat Ali, caused their health problems.

For its part, KBR wants to exclude testimony of a doctor who testified that the soldiers may have suffered cellular damage from their exposure to sodium dichromate, which was used by Iraqis at Qarmat Ali to control rust. They also seek to exclude testimony from an expert they say is unqualified to testify about toxicology, noting he had difficulty even pronouncing the word “toxicology.” Read the remainder of this entry »

KBR May Be Abusing Indemnification Provision in Iraq Contract

KBR's expert witness Barbara D. Beck, Ph.D., DABT taking a "billable" nap. Beck is testifying (or should I say napping) on behalf of KBR in the National Guard chemical exposure case at Qarmat Ali in Iraq. Beck also testified in opposition to efforts to ban lead in kids toys.

NEIL GORDON – (POGO) – May 24, 2012 – U.S. Senator Ron Wyden (D–OR) wants to know if defense contractor KBR is wasting taxpayer money in an effort to drag out lawsuits seeking to hold KBR accountable for exposing American soldiers to toxic chemicals in Iraq. This week, he sent a letter to Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta to find out what steps the Department of Defense is taking to ensure KBR is not taking advantage of taxpayers while unnecessarily prolonging the litigation.

Members of the National Guard were assigned to the Qarmat Ali water treatment plant in the early months of the Iraq war to protect KBR employees restoring the plant under the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ Restore Iraqi Oil (RIO) contract. While stationed there, the soldiers were allegedly exposed to dangerous levels of a highly carcinogenic chemical called hexavalent chromium (the same chemical at the center of the legal battle documented in the movie Erin Brockovich). The soldiers claim KBR was aware of the presence of the chemical but failed to warn or take steps to protect them.

When POGO first blogged about the case almost two years ago, we focused on a classified provision in the contract that requires the government to indemnify KBR for all property damage, injury or death occurring at Qarmat Ali, and all related legal expenses, even if KBR had acted with willful misconduct or lack of good faith. (After much urging from Congress, the Department of Defense finally declassified the provision in December.) As we explained in a follow-up blog post, taxpayers could potentially be on the hook for more than $150 million in damages and legal costs.

Taxpayers foot the bill for KBR attorneys at $750 per hour plus other outrageous perks

Wyden: KBR is Wasting Taxpayer Money While Avoiding Responsibility for Exposure of Oregon Guard to Toxic Chemicals

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Washington, D.C. – In a letter to Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta, U.S. Senator Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) called on the DoD to investigate the excessive expenses racked up by the legal team of Kellogg, Brown and Root (KBR) – a defense contractor that operated in Iraq with the contractual ability to pass all of their legal costs to American taxpayers. A lawsuit against KBR brought by a group of Oregon National Guard members assigned to provide security for KBR personnel claims that KBR management knew that the soldiers were being exposed to toxic chemicals while working at the Qarmat Ali water treatment plant. Read the remainder of this entry »

Judge moves to streamline (Oregon National Guard) soldiers’ case against KBR

Published: Thursday, February 09, 2012, 2:20 PM     Updated: Thursday, February 09, 2012, 2:33 PM

By Mike Francis, The Oregonian

An unspecified number of the 34 Oregon National Guard soldiers suing contractor KBR Inc. over their exposure to sodium dichromate in Iraq will have their cases set aside when the case goes to trial. The trial in U.S. District Court has been rescheduled for Oct. 9, four months later than the previously scheduled date.

U.S. District Magistrate Judge Paul Papak told lawyers Wednesday in a conference call that 34 plaintiffs would make the case “too unwieldy” for trial, said Jeffrey Eden, a Portland lawyer helping to represent KBR.

As a result, the parties agreed generally on a formula that would let the soldiers’ attorneys choose four plaintiffs, and the defense lawyers and the court another four each. Then those 12 plaintiffs would proceed to a trial, with the remaining plaintiffs’ cases shelved until the first case is resolved.

However, some of those 12 may be dismissed, as their cases for damages are likely to be challenged by KBR before the case reaches trial.

Still to be settled are whether the outcome of the first trial will be binding for the other soldiers currently listed as plaintiffs.

At the same time, Judge Papak continues to consider KBR’s request to dismiss the entire case. He has asked the lawyers for additional information about the expert opinions used in the litigation, so his decision may not come for months, said David Sugerman, a Portland lawyer helping to represent the soldiers.(see original article HERE)