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Lawyer: Military’s housing choice irrelevant

Brian Bowling – (TribLive News) – May 14, 2013 – A federal jury can determine whether a Defense  contractor is responsible for the electrocution death of a Shaler soldier  without second-guessing the military’s choice of where to house troops in Iraq,  a lawyer for the soldier’s parents argued Tuesday.

The jury doesn’t have to decide whether the Army made  the right choice in housing Sgt. Ryan Maseth, 24, in a building with a  substandard electrical system to determine whether KBR Inc. of Houston had the  discretion to fix the water pump that electrocuted Maseth while he was taking a  shower, said William Stickman.

If the jury decides the Army tied KBR’s hands, “we  simply lose,” he told a three-judge panel of the 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of  Appeals, which was hearing oral arguments in the Downtown federal courthouse.

Cheryl Harris of Cranberry and Douglas Maseth of  Allison Park want the appeals court to reinstate their lawsuit against KBR Inc.  for the Jan. 2, 2008, death of their son at the Radwaniyah Palace Complex in  Iraq.

Read the remainder of this entry »

Is KBR getting away with murder in the electrocution death of SSG Ryan Maseth (updated with opinion)

SSG Ryan Maseth was electrocuted in his shower in Baghdad and died January 2, 2008

Judge Nora Barry Fischer Opinion on Harris vs KBR (pdf)

Wrongful-death lawsuit in Shaler soldier’s electrocution dismissed

By Adam Brandolph

Published: Monday, July 16, 2012, 10:16 a.m.

The mother of a Shaler soldier electrocuted in Iraq said Monday she was “completely disappointed” and will appeal a federal judge’s decision to dismiss the wrongful death lawsuit against the company she claims is responsible.

Cheryl Harris of Cranberry said the case involving her son, Ryan Maseth, didn’t end when U.S. District Judge Nora Barry Fischer on Friday dismissed the lawsuit against KBR Inc., a Houston-based engineering and construction company that contracted to maintain Army barracks in Iraq.

“We won’t quit until there is nothing left to appeal,” Harris said. “I was told that if I wanted justice, it would have to be in a courtroom. We expected that justice would prevail, but (the judge’s dismissal) left me surprised and disappointed.”

KBR spokesman John Elolf did not respond to requests for comment.

Harris and Douglas Maseth of Allison Park claim in the civil lawsuit that KBR’s negligence led to the death of their son, Army Staff Sgt. Ryan Maseth, 24, on Jan. 2, 2008, while he was showering at the Radwaniyah Palace Complex, one of Saddam Hussein’s palaces that was serving as a base for U.S. forces in Iraq. Read the remainder of this entry »

No justice in the electrocution death of SSG Ryan Maseth (updated with Opinion)

SSG Ryan Maseth was electrocuted in his shower in Baghdad and died January 2, 2008

What a heartbreaking turn of events. My faith in the justice system has been destroyed. Judge Nora Barry Fischer has given every defense contractor a green light to maim and kill our troops with no repercussions. This just sickens me! Justice has not been served here. ~ Ms Sparky

Judge Nora Barry Fischer Opinion on Harris vs KBR (pdf)

Judge nixes lawsuit against KBR in GI’s death

By Joe Mandak – The Associated Press
Posted : Monday Jul 16, 2012 14:52:13 EDT

PITTSBURGH — A military contractor cannot be held liable in the death of a soldier who was electrocuted in his barracks shower at an Army base in Iraq, a federal judge said in dismissing a lawsuit brought by Pittsburgh-area soldier’s mother.

Houston-based military contractor KBR Inc. cannot be held liable in Staff Sgt. Ryan Maseth’s death because military commanders — not the contractor — decided where to house soldiers and whether buildings with substandard electrical systems were suitable for troops, U.S. District Judge Nora Barry Fischer said.

“As a contractor, KBR had no authority to order military personnel to do anything, including to direct soldiers where to live or shower,” Fischer said in the 87-page opinion handed down late Friday. In it, she relied on military records and the sworn testimony of commanders taken in pretrial depositions.

William Stickman, an attorney for Cheryl Maseth, said he’ll ask the 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals to overturn Fischer’s opinion, which he said was overly broad.

Stickman said the legal standards Fischer used are meant to immunize the military and its contractors from lawsuits should soldiers be harmed during combat-related duties, when normal levels of civil negligence might be impossible to police, but not from what he called “routine building support services.” Read the remainder of this entry »

Contractor KBR says it wasn’t at fault in soldier’s electrocution death

SSG Ryan Maseth

Rich Lord – (Pittsburgh Post-Gazette) – March 30, 2012 – Staff Sgt. Ryan Douglas Maseth’s death in a shower in Iraq stemmed from U.S. Army decisions that can’t be questioned by courts, lawyers for a top defense contractor argued in court today.

Or maybe they were the result of Mr. Maseth’s own risky decisions, attorneys for Kellogg Brown & Root Services Inc. told U.S. District Judge Nora Barry Fischer, in oral arguments supporting their motion to dismiss the four-year-old lawsuit pursued by the sergeant’s parents and estate.

The hearing became an hours-long debate that vividly depicted the cold calculus of wartime decision making, showing that Army officials — and maybe KBR — knew troop showers were death traps, but opted for what military planners called “the least-bad option.”

Mr. Maseth, whose parents live in the North Hills, was 24 at the time of his Jan. 2, 2008, electrocution on the U.S. base at Radwaniyah Palace complex in Baghdad. KBR had a contract for maintenance of buildings there.

Mr. Maseth was assigned to a building that initially was not considered fit to house troops, but was later deemed by the Army to be adequate despite an ungrounded electrical system, said attorney Lawrence S. Ebner, representing KBR. The Army knew for four years prior to Mr. Maseth’s death that the building was ungrounded, as were many buildings in Iraq, he said.

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Ryan we haven’t forgotten you

SSG Ryan Maseth was electrocuted in his shower in Baghdad and died January 2, 2008

The war in Iraq is all but over and our troops have pulled out.  It’s been four years today since 24 year old  SSG Ryan Maseth was electrocuted and died while showering in his living quarters at Radwaniyah Palace Complex in Baghdad. Ryan’s courageous mother, Cheryl Harris continues to fight, not only for the rights of her son, but for the safety of soldiers everywhere.

Cheryl filed suit against KBR for the death of her son. Although this suit drags on in the US courts at an agonizingly slow pace.  KBR has pulled out all the stops in attempts to have this case dismissed in US courts, but much to KBR’s dismay, it hasn’t.

I will write every year I’m able to remind people of Ryan’s death, the product of corporate greed and corruption, and heroes like Cheryl Harris. We need more heroes like Cheryl!

You can read more on Cheryl’s case against KBR at Cheryl Harris vs KBR.

Below are links to past posts I’ve written and published on the anniversary of Ryan’s death.

SSG Ryan Maseth – You must be very proud! (2009)
Does anyone know what day this is? (2010)
3rd anniversary of the electrocution death of SSG Ryan Maseth (2011)

Cheryl, I pray the next post I publish about Ryan is how you succeeded in holding KBR accountable for his senseless death!

Ms Sparky