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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.

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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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