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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.

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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.

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Oregon National Guard soldiers vs. KBR – Trial News

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.

Company asks judge to be left out of suit
Soldiers say firm exposed them to toxin at water plant
(Associated Press) – PORTLAND – October 28, 2012 – Iraq War contractor Kellogg, Brown and Root has asked a federal judge in Portland to remove its name from an ongoing suit by 12 Oregon soldiers and replace it with a smaller subsidiary.

They note that KBR Inc. wasn’t formed until 2006, three years after the soldiers say the company knowingly exposed them to a carcinogen at a water treatment plant in southern Iraq.

The only proper defendant, the company argues, is the subsidiary.

The soldiers’ attorneys have rested their case. In testimony that began Oct. 10, the plaintiffs argued that KBR knew a critical southern Iraq oilfield plant was riddled with a well-known toxin but ignored the risk to soldiers while hurrying the project along, firing a whistleblower and covering up the presence of the chemical when faced with exposure.

The soldiers say they suffer from respiratory ailments after their exposure. They are the first suit to go to trial in a case being watched nationally. Another suit from Oregon plaintiffs is on hold, as is a case from Texas soldiers, while the Portland trial plays out.

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Oregon National Guard soldiers vs. KBR – Trial News

Rocky Bixby 2010 – photo Beth Nakamura / The Oregonian

After some discussion of his military duties, his skin condition and his uncertainty about the effects of his exposure, his lawyer asked him why he had joined the lawsuit against KBR.

Because it could happen again,” he said. The idea that KBR workers and officials might have known something he didn’t about the toxic hazards at Qarmat Ali is “stressful” and “upsetting,” he said. ~Testimony of veteran Ronald Bjerklund

The KBR trial operates on two planes: The soldiers’ and the lawyers’
Mike Francis – (The Oregonian) – October 18, 2012 – It’s striking, while sitting through the testimony and the legal maneuvering in the case brought by Oregon soldiers against KBR Inc., to note the differing perspectives each participant brings to the trial.

The lawyers and Judge Paul Papak are sorting through questions about legal and technical issues such as which testimony and legal demonstrations are permissible, as the jury weighs the facts and opinions presented in court.

But the group of 12 Oregon men who are plaintiffs are different. They aren’t in court to sift the legal tactics or matters of medicine. They say they are there because, if an injustice occurred, it deserves a reckoning.

Thursday afternoon brought to the stand Ronald Bjerklund, 42, an Army and Oregon National Guard veteran who’s deployed four times. He’s concerned about a persistent skin irritation that he fears may have been triggered by his presence for two days at the Qarmat Ali water treatment plant in 2003.  (Click HERE for article)

Thursday morning in the KBR case: A few words from the Army Corps of Engineers
Mike Francis – (The Oregonian) – October 18, 2012 – Mike Remington was the Army Corps of Engineers safety specialist for the Restore Iraqi Oil project in Iraq from late March 2003 until July 5, when he flew home for a family emergency. That put him in charge of safety at sites such as Qarmat Ali, where KBR Inc. engineers and technicians were working to repair a badly damaged water treatment plant, when Oregon soldiers served there.

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Soldiers claim illness after guarding KBR in Iraq

Photo – ABC News

Nigel Duara – (Associated Press) – October 10, 2012 – Portland, Ore. - A war contractor knew a critical southern Iraq oilfield plant was riddled with a well-known toxin but ignored the risk to soldiers while hurrying the project along, firing a whistleblower and covering up the presence of the chemical when faced with exposure, the soldiers’ attorney said in opening arguments Wednesday in a federal civil suit.

An attorney for the contractor, Kellogg, Brown and Root, fired back in his opening salvo of a trial expected to last weeks that the soldiers’ injuries weren’t a result of their exposure to the toxin, called sodium dichromate. Geoffrey L. Harrison argued that the company had no knowledge of the chemical’s presence at the plant and when they found it, they promptly and repeatedly warned the military of the danger.

A jury of six men and six women will decide whether the company is culpable for 12 Oregon National Guardsmen’s exposure to the toxin, a known carcinogen, and whether that exposure led to their ongoing respiratory illnesses. The soldiers will also try to show that the fear of future illnesses is causing them to suffer emotional distress.

The irony, said the soldiers’ attorney, Mike Doyle, “is that every single one of these men had a chemical hazard suit they would have put on instantly if they had known.”

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