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Posts Tagged ‘USACE’

$85 million awarded to 12 Oregon soldiers; KBR guilty of negligence, not fraud

Posted by defensebaseactcomp on November 2, 2012

Oregon Live  November 2, 1012

A Portland jury found defense contractor KBR Inc. was negligent, but did not commit fraud against a dozen Oregon Army National Guard soldiers who sued the company for its conduct in Iraq nine years ago. Magistrate Judge Paul Papak announced the decision about 3:35 p.m. the U.S. Courthouse in Portland. Each soldier was awarded $850,000 in non-economic damages and $6.25 million in punitive damages.

“It’s a little bit of justice,” said Guard veteran Jason Arnold, moments after the verdict was announced Friday afternoon. Arnold was one of four of the soldier-plaintiffs in the courtroom was the verdict was read.

The verdict should send an important message to those who rely on military troops, he said.

“We’re not disposable,” said another soldier, Aaron St. Clair. “People are not going to make money from our blood.”

KBR’s lead attorney, Geoffrey Harrison, said the company will appeal.

“We will appeal the jury’s incorrect verdict,” he said. “We believe the trial court should have dismissed the case before the trial.”

Harrison said the soldiers’ lawyers produced a medical expert, Dr. Arch Carson, who offered “unsupported, untested medical opinions” that each soldier had suffered invisible, cellular-level injuries as a result of their exposure to hexavalent chromium.

The verdict means the jury did not hear clear and convincing evidence that KBR intended to deceive the soldiers in the way it operated at the Qarmat Ali water treatment plant, near Basra, Iraq. But they did find that the company failed to meet its obligations in managing the work at the plant.

Friday’s verdict closes the first phase of a web of litigation between National Guard and British troops against KBR Inc., the defense contractor they accuse of knowingly exposing them in 2003 to a carcinogen at Qarmat Ali. KBR has denied the accusations.

In Oregon another set of Oregon soldiers are waiting in the wings for their day in court. Magistrate Judge Paul Papak and the attorneys agreed earlier to hold an initial trial with the first 12 soldiers, in order to keep the proceedings from becoming too unwieldy. A second trial, featuring all or some of the remaining 21 plaintiffs, could begin in federal court in Portland this winter.

Another lawsuit brought by Indiana soldiers against KBR is on hold in federal court in Texas, while an appeals court considers a jurisdictional issue.

The cases stem from the chaotic aftermath of the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq in March 2003. The Army Corps of Engineers hired KBR Inc. to run a massive program called Restore Iraqi Oil. The program involved dozens of sites throughout Iraq — sites that neither the Army nor KBR had visited before the invasion. The project was intended to quickly restore the flow of Iraq’s oil, partly to fund the war. The Pentagon remembered the way Saddam Hussein had lit the fields on fire during the first Gulf War, and feared a repeat in 2003.

Qarmat Ali was a compound where water was pumped underground to drive oil to the surface elsewhere. For decades, Iraqis had treated the water with sodium dichromate, an anticorrosion agent that contains hexavalent chromium, a known carcinogen. (Sodium dichromate is banned in the United States.)

Iraq’s Southern Oil Co. took delivery of sodium dichromate, an orange-yellow crystalline powder, in bags that were stored on site. Soldiers and others testified that the material was loose and drifting around the site, and had contaminated areas even outside the chemical injection building where it was added to the water.

How contaminated was it? Accounts differ. Even one of the plaintiffs in this case said he didn’t notice any soil discoloration. One of the British soldiers whose testimony was prerecorded said it was everywhere. Another Oregon soldier said it settled heavily on the clothing of the soldiers, who unwittingly carried it back to their camps over the border in Kuwait.

Much of KBR’s defense in the first Oregon trial focused on just how unlikely it was that any soldier — who visited the plant at durations from one day to 21 days — could have been exposed to dangerously high levels of sodium dichromate. But one of the most gripping portions of the testimony was when Oregon veteran Larry Roberta described eating a chicken patty that had been coated with the orange crystals, which he said immediately burned in his esophagus, causing him to vomit.

Roberta now is confined to a wheelchair and takes oxygen from a tank in his backpack. He had a history of gastrointestinal issues, but attributes much of his poor health to his time at Qarmat Ali.

Harrison, KBR’s lawyer, said the company “believes in the judicial process and respects the efforts and time of the jurors,” but believes the process that brought the case to conclusion Friday shouldn’t have been allowed to come so far.

“KBR did safe and exceptional work in Iraq under difficult circumstances,” he said in a brief, prepared statement. “We believe the facts and law ultimately will provide vindication.”

Soldier-plaintiff Arnold said the message of the verdict is unmistakable. He said service members are being exploited “to this day.”

Now, he said, “the voice will be out. There will be a lot more scrutiny.”

Posted in ACE, AIG and CNA, AWOL Medical Records, Cancer, Chartis, Civilian Contractors, Contractor Casualties and Missing, Defense Base Act, Exclusive Remedy, Follow the Money, Iraq, KBR, Toxic Exposures, War Hazards Act | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

US Engineer, James W “Will” Coker, remains found in Afghanistan

Posted by defensebaseactcomp on September 6, 2011

Kidnapped Army Corps worker killed in Afghanistan

Washington DC Channel 13 WVEC   September 7, 2011 8pm

A man who worked for the US Army Corps of Engineers in Norfolk was killed in Afghanistan.

James W. Coker, 59, of Mount Pleasant, S.C., was pronounced dead Sept. 5 in Kabul, Afghanistan, while on temporary assignment with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. Coker worked for Naval Facilities Engineering Command Atlantic in Norfolk.

The circumstances surrounding Coker’s death are under investigation.

According to the Associated Press, Coker was a civilian working with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers when he was kidnapped from his Afghanistan power plant and strangled to death.

Carrie Hughes, Coker’s daughter, told The Associated Press that military officers came to her house near Charleston, South Carolina on Monday to inform her that her father had been killed.

It was not known who killed the Coker or under what circumstances he was abducted. Also Tuesday, the bodies of two Germans who had apparently been murdered were retrieved from a remote location. Neither area is known to be a hotbed of militant activity

CBS News  September 6, 2011

An Afghan military official tells CBS News that the body of a U.S. national was found beheaded on Monday in eastern Kabul, days after a civilian engineer went missing in the capital city.

Intelligence sources in Afghanistan told the Reuters news agency the body was that of the missing American civilian, and the international military coalition confirmed that a U.S. engineer had been killed.

Special section: Afghanistan

The slain engineer was identified as James W. “Will” Coker by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, for which he worked in Kabul as a construction contractor.

Kidnappings and targeted killings of foreigners are common in Afghanistan, but less so in the sprawling capital city, which has seen less impact from the Taliban- and al Qaeda-led insurgency plaguing many parts of the nation.

Coker was reported missing on Monday, but sources tell CBS News he actually disappeared on Sept. 2

Please see the original here

Posted in Afghanistan, Civilian Contractors, Contractor Casualties and Missing | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments »

Defense Base Act Insurance Company CNA may owe US Government as much as $58.5 million

Posted by defensebaseactcomp on July 28, 2011

An alarming story of greed, negligence, and a lack of government oversight.

July 28, 2011

SIGAR Audit-11-15 Contract Performance and Oversight / Defense Base Act Insurance

SIGAR audited a pilot program in which CNA was contracted to provide DBA Insurance for US Army Corps of Engineers contracts.

So this $58.5 million was overcharged in a very small portion of the DBA business that CNA carries.

Basically CNA overcharged, didn’t reimburse USACE and contractors for labor charges that turned out not to be justified,  did not have proper paperwork in place and accounting procedures to allow DCAA to be able to look at their books and determine who was owed what.

CNA also commingled funds meant to be segregated for different contracts, lumping them all into one account.

The workers’ compensation program is so riddled with problems as a result of using a third-party insurer that the inspector general’s office suggests it may be worthwhile to dump the insurer altogether, the audit reads.

See Also

Problems abound in US government insurance program

Audit finds numerous problems in workers’ comp program for US contractors in Afghanistan

Army Corps Overpaid CNA $10 Million on War Insurance: Audit

Propublica coverage of CNA’s  treatment of Contractors

How CNA treats Foreign Claimants

Posted in Afghanistan, AIG and CNA, Civilian Contractors, Defense Base Act Insurance, Department of Labor, Dropping the DBA Ball, Follow the Money, LHWCA Longshore Harbor Workers Compesnation Act, Political Watch | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , | 9 Comments »

 
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