Defense Base Act Compensation Blog

The Modern Day DBA Casualty

Oregon Guard soldiers lawsuit again war contractor KBR can go forward

Posted by defensebaseactcomp on April 12, 2010

By Julie Sullivan, The Oregonian

April 12, 2010, 5:57PM

An Oregon Army National Guard soldiers’ lawsuit against war contractor Kellogg, Brown & Root over exposure to a cancer-causing chemical will go forward, a federal judge ruled Friday in Portland.

U.S. District Judge Magistrate Paul Papak denied KBR’s motion to dismiss the case, saying the court in Oregon does have jurisdiction.

The ruling is a significant step for 21 Oregon soldiers who claim they were intentionally exposed to the chemical hexavalent chromium after the U.S. invasion of Iraq in 2003. Troops from Oregon and two other states were ordered to guard employees of the Houston-based holding company and its four subsidiaries, which were restoring oil production in southern Iraq.

The soldiers claim that at the Qarmat Ali water plant, KBR ignored and downplayed the health risks of a corrosion-fighter scattered across the facility that contained hexavalent chromium. Soldiers sued alleging lung and other health problems as a result.

In February, a federal judge in Indianapolis dismissed a similar suit saying that the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Indiana lacked jurisdiction over KBR. The 47 Indiana soldiers refiled their lawsuit in Houston.

In Portland, the attorney for the Oregon soldiers, David Sugerman said, “We are going forward. Oregon National Guard soldiers will have their day in court.”

KBR has denied harming any troops or employees. Calls seeking comment from the contractors’ Portland attorneys were not returned. In February, the attorneys argued that when the contractor called for help in Iraq, that action was not directed at the state of Oregon and the alleged victims were not in Oregon when those calls occurred.

But in his 18-page opinion, Papak ruled that by using Oregon National Guardsmen — people whose health and safety directly impact the state’s treasury, “defendants purposefully injected themselves into this forum.” He also said that Oregon has a clear interest in protecting the health and safety not merely of its citizens, but also of its employees, the Guardsmen.

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