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Mike Francis – (The Oregonian) – December 29, 2012 – Following unproductive talks on the day after Christmas, lawyers for defense contractor KBR Inc. and for a set of Oregon National Guard veterans filed dueling motions Friday in federal court in Portland.
KBR has asked Magistrate Judge Paul Papak to grant a new trial, almost two months after a Portland jury awarded 12 Oregon National Guard veterans about $85 million in damages. The company’s lawyers say that lawyers for the veterans committed “numerous and repeated violations” of Papak’s rulings, tainting the verdict and misleading the jury.
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.
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.
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.
For KBR not to have informed him and his men directly of the hazards at Qarmat Ali, he said, made him “very disappointed.”
“Why?” asked his questioner.
“I’m dying now because of it,” he replied.~ Testimony of LTC James Gentry – Indiana National Guard Commander
Two Oregon soldiers take the stand for the first time in KBR case
Mike Francis – (The Oregonian) – October 15, 2012 – After more than two years of legal motions, objections, depositions and pretrial hearings, Oregon National Guard soldiers suing defense contractor KBR Inc. got their day in court Monday.
Guard veterans Jason Arnold of Redmond and Rocky Bixby of Portland took the stand for the first time to describe their experiences at the Qarmat Ali water treatment plant in southern Iraq in the spring of 2003. The two are among 12 Oregon Guard soldiers or veterans who accuse the contractor of negligence and fraud in exposing them to a carcinogen chemical compound when they provided security at the plant. Others are expected to testify in the coming days as the trial enters its second week.
Arnold said he entered a damaged building at the water plant to check for security threats and saw damaged equipment and paper strewn about the floor. He said he picked up some papers and kicked up some dust as he did so. (Click HERE for article)