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KBR sues US Army after losing case to Oregon National Guardsmen

The US Army resists KBR’s attempt to “gobble” up more taxpayer dollars as KBR cries “fowl” and sues the US Army Corp of Engineers (USACE) after they refuse to indemnify the “turkey’s” [KBR’s] legal fees from exposure of Oregon National Guard troops and others to sodium dichromate at Qarmat Ali, Iraq. If I were the Army, I would be saying “Stick a fork in ‘em [KBR], they’re DONE!” (OK….that’s all the Thanksgiving cliche’s for now.)

On November 2, 2012, an Oregon federal jury ruled that KBR must pay $85 million to 12 Oregon National Guard members who allegedly suffered emotional distress after the company exposed them to sodium dichromate at Qarmat Ali.

Each guardsman was awarded $6.25 million in punitive damages after the jury determined that KBR “acted with reckless and outrageous indifference to a highly unreasonable risk of harm and conscious indifference to the health, safety and welfare of others,” as well as $850,000 in non-economic damages. Read the remainder of this entry »

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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Request DENIED: Army Refuses Legal Indemnification for KBR (Updated)

When asked if KBR has considered settling the soldiers’ cases, Harrison said no. 

“The company is not at all interested in paying any money to settle claims brought by these plaintiffs’ lawyers,” he said.  – Geoffrey Harrison – Susman, Godfrey

NEIL GORDON – (POGO) – June 25, 2012 – POGO has obtained a document that sheds new light on the ongoing litigation between defense contractor KBR and National Guardsmen who claim the company exposed them to a deadly chemical at the Qarmat Ali water treatment plant in Iraq. The document could help the Guardsmen in their nearly four-year fight for justice and will come as good news to taxpayers, who stand to save potentially hundreds of millions of dollars.

POGO’s occasional blog posts about the Qarmat Ali lawsuits have focused on a formerly classified provision in KBR’s contract that obligates the government to indemnify KBR for all legal damages and expenses. With taxpayers ultimately footing the bill, we worry the indemnification provision gives KBR an incentive to perform the contract recklessly. Others, such as U.S. Senator Ron Wyden (D–Ore.), claim the provision is encouraging KBR to drag out the Qarmat Ali lawsuits while running up excessive legal expenses.

However, our concerns were alleviated when we received this letter through the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA). In the November 18, 2011 letter, U.S. Army contracting officer John Rogers informed KBR contracts manager Michael Morrow that the government will not indemnify KBR for the Qarmat Ali litigation.

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Oregon case against KBR is streamlined

Mike Francis – (The Oregonian) – April 10, 2012 – The suit brought by several dozen Oregon National Guard soldiers against military contractor KBR Inc. has been downsized by the federal judge hearing the case.

In an effort to reduce the number of plaintiffs to a manageable number, U.S. Magistrate Judge Paul Papak has ordered trial to proceed in October with 12 plaintiffs — four chosen by lawyers for each side, and four selected by the court.

Separately, one plaintiff, Michael O’Rielly, has withdrawn from the case at his own request.

That leaves 21 soldiers whose case against KBR will be set aside while the trial of the first dozen proceeds in Portland this fall.

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