Oregon case against KBR is streamlined
Mike Francis Oregon Live April 10, 2012
In an effort to reduce the number of plaintiffs to a manageable number, U.S. Magistrate Judge Paul Papak has ordered trial to proceed in October with 12 plaintiffs — four chosen by lawyers for each side, and four selected by the court.
Separately, one plaintiff, Michael O’Rielly, has withdrawn from the case at his own request.
That leaves 21 soldiers whose case against KBR will be set aside while the trial of the first dozen proceeds in Portland this fall.
And on a parallel track, lawyers for KBR and the soldiers agreed Tuesday to take their arguments before a mediator in Harris County, Texas, where KBR is based. The mediation, which is scheduled for August, will cover the cases brought the Oregon soldiers and by soldiers from the Indiana National Guard. Mediation may lead to a settlement, but if it doesn’t, the trial of the first 12 Oregon soldiers will proceed.
The first 12 soldiers scheduled to take their case against KBR are: Jason Arnold, Rocky Bixby, Ronald Bjerklund, Colt Campredon, Charles Ellis, Byron Greer, Matthew Hadley, Brian Hedin, Vito Pacheco, Larry Roberta, Charles Seamon and Aaron St. Clair.
The soldiers are suing KBR because they believe the contractor knowingly exposed them to a carcinogenic compound when they were assigned to provide security at a water treatment plant in southern Iraq. KBR was hired to help restore Iraq’s oil production after the invasion, and the Oregon soldiers were among those who guarded them as they worked.
A compound called sodium dichromate, used as an anticorrosive agent, was present at the site, and some of the soldiers have developed symptoms consistent with the effects of sodium dichromate exposure. At least two members of the Indiana National Guard who guarded the Qarmat Ali plant have died — one from lung cancer and another for what was called “chronic interstitial lung disease.”
KBR denies that it knowingly exposed the soldiers to a dangerous chemical compound.
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