Associated Press at The Blaze November 20, 2012
The U.S. government has filed a civil lawsuit accusing a Houston-based global construction company and its Kuwaiti subcontractor of submitting nearly $50 million in inflated claims to install live-in trailers for troops during the Iraq War.
The lawsuit names KBR Inc. and First Kuwaiti Trading Co., alleging they overcharged for truck, driver and crane costs, and misrepresented delays in providing around 2,250 trailers meant to replace tents used by soldiers earlier in the invasion.
In one instance, the contractors allegedly claimed they paid $23,000 to lease one crane per month when the actual price was about $8,000, according to the lawsuit, which was filed this week in U.S. District Court in Rock Island, Ill., and first appeared in federal court records Tuesday.
KBR, once the engineering and construction arm of Halliburton, has faced lawsuits before related to its work in Iraq. One of the most prominent involved a soldier electrocuted in his barracks shower at an Army base. That case was eventually dismissed.
In the case involving the trailers, Jim Lewis, the U.S. Attorney for the Central District of Illinois, said “KBR and First Kuwaiti did not provide an honest accounting.”
Stuart Delery, a U.S. deputy assistant attorney general, said in a Department of Justice statement regarding the lawsuit that contractors “are not permitted to profit at the expense of the taxpayers at home who are supporting our men and women in uniform.”
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.”
Unarmored trucks carrying needed supplies were ambushed, leaving six drivers dead. Records illuminate the fateful decision.
“Can anyone explain to me why we put civilians in the middle of known ambush sites?”
“Maybe we should put body bags on the packing list for our drivers.”
T Christian Miller The LA Times September 3, 2007
Senior managers for defense contractor KBR overruled calls to halt supply operations in Iraq in the spring of 2004, ordering unarmored trucks into an active combat zone where six civilian drivers died in an ambush, according to newly available documents.
Company e-mails and other internal communications reveal that before KBR dispatched the convoy, a chorus of security advisors predicted an increase in roadside bombings and attacks on Iraq’s highways. They recommended suspension of convoys.
“[I] think we will get people injured or killed tomorrow,” warned KBR regional security chief George Seagle, citing “tons of intel.” But in an e-mail sent a day before the convoy was dispatched, he also acknowledged: “Big politics and contract issues involved.”
KBR was under intense pressure from the military to deliver on its multibillion-dollar contract to transport food, fuel and other vital supplies to U.S. soldiers. At Baghdad’s airport, a shortage of jet fuel threatened to ground some units.
After consulting with military commanders, KBR’s top managers decided to keep the convoys rolling. “If the [Army] pushes, then we push, too,” wrote an aide to Craig Peterson, KBR’s top official in Iraq.
The decision prompted a raging internal debate that is detailed in private KBR documents, some under court seal, that were reviewed by The Times.
One KBR management official threatened to resign when superiors ordered truckers to continue driving. “I cannot consciously sit back and allow unarmed civilians to get picked apart,” wrote Keith Richard, chief of the trucking operation.
Six American truck drivers and two U.S. soldiers were killed when the convoy rumbled into a five-mile gauntlet of weapons fire on April 9, 2004, making an emergency delivery of jet fuel to the airport. One soldier and a seventh trucker remain missing.
Recriminations began the same day.
“Can anyone explain to me why we put civilians in the middle of known ambush sites?” demanded one security advisor in an e-mail. “Maybe we should put body bags on the packing list for our drivers.”
Halliburton and its former KBR Inc. subsidiary knowingly sent military supply convoys into danger on roads in the Baghdad area.
High court won’t hear case against Halliburton
In its order Tuesday, the court said it will not review a federal appeals court ruling that threw out suits filed by truckers and their families claiming that Halliburton and its former KBR Inc. subsidiary knowingly sent military supply convoys into danger on roads in the Baghdad area.
The attacks killed seven KBR drivers and injured at least 10 others in April 2004.
The appeals court said a federal law prohibits the lawsuits because it provides workers’ compensation to civilian employees injured while under contract with defense agencies.
After many years of surviving an extremely abusive Overly Zealous Defense
These benefits were recently taken away by the Benefits Review Board when Attorney Bruce Nicholson, who was actively pursuing a settlement with KBR/AIG’s Attorney Michael Thomas, had a contract with the widow, was the attorney of record with the BRB, did not as much as respond to the Appeal.
While Bruce Nicholson is the one who apparently purposely abandoned the claim, Michael Thomas and the BRB were more than happy to carry on without notifying the widow that AIG’s appeal of her claim was unopposed.
Our thoughts are with you today Barb
Oregon Live June 26, 2012
It’s not clear who’s going to pay legal costs for defense contractor KBR Inc., which is being sued by National Guard soldiers who accuse the company of knowingly exposing them to a carcinogen.
While the company persuaded the Army Corps of Engineers to write an indemnification clause into its 2003 contract to restore the flow of Iraq’s oil, the Corps has twice refused KBR’s request to cover its costs in the two lawsuits proceeding against it in Oregon and Texas.
Lawyers for KBR say they believe the company is entitled to have its expenses covered by taxpayers but is proceeding through the litigation in the meantime at its own risk and expense, said Geoffrey Harrison of the Houston firm of Susman, Godfrey. The company expects to challenge the Corps’ denial “maybe at the end of the case,” he said.
Florida Today June 8, 2012
John Kirkland, 55, of Houston, TX, passed away on June 1, 2012, during an attack by the Taliban in Afghanistan. Son of Jeannine and Gordon, John was born in Atlanta, Georgia on June 16, 1956. He would have been 56 years old on June 16th.
John grew up in Florida, where he lived in Melbourne and Palm Bay. He owned and operated a local stucco business until he moved to Houston in 1998. He lived there before becoming employed in 2006 as a Maintenance Mechanic for KBR, a civilian military contractor.
John’s first job assignment was at a military base located in Iraq in 2006. In May, 2010 he was transferred to a Forward Operating Base in Afghanistan named Salerno, where he worked for the civilian military contractor Fluor. He was killed on June 1, 2012 during an attack by the Taliban. His remains will be cremated at Dover Air Force Base.
John is survived by his son, Christopher Ashley Kirkland; and his two brothers, Virgil Eugene Kirkland of Ocala, FL and Douglas Paul Kirkland of Palm Bay, FL; as well as an Aunt and Uncle, Glenda and Eddie McCoy of Mooresville, NC, along with numerous cousins.
WHY HAVE I NOT RECEIVED THE DEFENSE OF FREEDOM MEDAL?
The Defense of Freedom Medal is an award held to be the equivalent of the Purple Heart and is awarded to Civilian Contractors injured in the war zones.
One question we get here repeatedly is why have I not received the Defense of Freedom Medal? The question comes from severely disabled Civilian Contractors wounded in horrific explosions and insurgent attacks.
WHO IS HOLDING YOUR MEDAL HOSTAGE?
The company you work for is responsible for requesting that you receive the medal and providing the documentation that you have indeed suffered a qualifying injury.
As all Injured War Zone Contractors know the minute you must file a Defense Base Act Claim you are automatically placed in an adversarial relationship with your employer. Your Employer and the Defense Base Act Insurance Company are considered equal entities in the battle you have entered for your medical care and indemnity.
Your Employer is required to assist the insurance company in denying your claim. Under the War Hazards Act the Employer/Carrier must prove to the WHA Tribunal that they have diligently tried to deny your claim.
It appears that your Defense of Freedom Medals could be held hostage by your Employers due to the adversarial relationship the Defense Base Act has created.
When KBR, DynCorp, Blackwater, Xe, et al, provide documentation of your injuries to the DoD they have just admitted that you are indeed injured and to what extent.
Specific information regarding injury/death: Description of the situation causing the injury/death in detail to include the date, time, place, and scene of the incident, and official medical documentation of the employee’s injuries and treatment. The description must be well documented, including the names of witnesses and point of contact (POC) for additional medical information, if needed.
These admissions sure would make it hard for Administrative Law Judges like Paul C Johnson to name them as alleged. ALJ Paul C Johnson has yet to award benefits to a DBA Claimant in a decision based on a hearing.
KBR who can never seem to find their injured employees medical records holds the key to the Defense of Freedom Medal.
Certainly there are other lawsuits outside of the DBA that the withholding of this information is vital too.
For those of you who still give a damn after being abused by so badly simply because you were injured-
The Defense of Freedom Medal may find you many years down the road once an Administrative Law Judge says you were injured.
We recommend that you contact your Congressional Representative or Senator and have them request this Medal if you qualify for it and would like to have it.
If you are still litigating your claim it SHOULD serve to legitimize your alleged injuries.
The Oregonian May 22, 2012
U.S. Sen. Ron Wyden is calling for the Department of Defense to investigate “excessive” expenses of the legal team of defense contractor Kellogg, Brown and Root, granted special indemnity for its contract in Iraq.
Wyden’s sharply worded letter sent Wednesday to Defense Secretary Leon Panetta comes after recent investigations into KBR’s legal team uncovered costs that included attorneys bills of $750 per hour, numerous first-class flights and paying one expert more than $500,000 for testimony and consultation who admitted billing for time spent sleeping.
A lawsuit against KBR was brought by a group of Oregon Army National Guard assigned to provide security in 2003 for KBR personnel claims KBR management knew that the soldiers were being exposed to carcinogenic chemicals while working at a water treatment plant in Qarmat Ali.
The Pentagon legally covers dozens of military contractors doing dangerous jobs at home, such as making anthrax vaccine or disposing of mustard gas. The details of the immunity emerged in 2010 in a court case in Portland. It releases KBR from all financial liability for misconduct and allows KBR to pass all legal costs to the U.S. government.
“Essentially, KBR was handed a blank check with the Pentagon’s signature, and it seems clear to me that they intend to run up the bill as much as possible before cashing that check,” Wyden wrote in the letter.
Under KBR’s contract, the government has the ability to direct KBR’s legal defense and require it to settle with Oregon Guard, according to Wyden
Project on Government Oversight May 7, 2012
For Vinnie Tuivaga, the offer was the answer to a prayer: A job in a luxury hotel in Dubai–the so-called Las Vegas of the Persian Gulf–making five times what she was earning as a hair stylist in her native Fiji.
She jumped at the chance, even if it meant paying an upfront commission to the recruiter.
You probably know how this story is going to end. There was no high-paying job, luxury location or easy work.
Tuivaga and other Fijians ended up in Iraq where they lived in shipping containers and existed in what amounted to indentured servitude.
Journalist Sarah Stillman told Tuivaga’s story and that of tens of thousands of other foreign workers in acute detail almost a year ago in her New Yorker piece, “The Invisible Army.”
In some cases, Stillman found more severe abuses and more squalid living conditions than what Tuivaga and her fellow Fijians experienced.
But like Tuivaga, thousands of foreign nationals in the U.S. government’s invisible army ended up in Iraq and Afghanistan war zones because they fell victim to human traffickers.
Let that sink in.
This human trafficking pipeline wasn’t benefitting some shadowy war lord or oppressive regime. No, these are workers who were feeding, cleaning up after, and providing logistical support for U.S. troops—the standard-bearers of the free and democratic world.
In its final report to Congress last year, the Commission on Wartime Contracting said it had uncovered evidence of human trafficking in Iraq and Afghanistan by labor brokers and subcontractors. Commissioner Dov Zakheim later told a Senate panel that the Commission had only scratched the surface of the problem. He called it the “tip of the iceberg.”
In essence, despite a 2002 presidential directive that set a “zero tolerance” on human trafficking, modern-day slavers have been operating with impunity under the aegis of the U.S. government.
Nick Schwellenbach, who until last month was the director of investigations at the Project On Government Oversight (POGO), and author David Isenberg also wrote about the conditions some of these foreign workers endured in Iraq.
Nick and David uncovered documents that showed how one U.S. contractor—in this case KBR—was well aware that one of its subcontractors, Najlaa International Catering Services, was involved in trafficking abuses.
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.
KTVL TV 10 Portland Associated Press April 4, 2012
PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) — A military contractor knew an Iraqi water treatment plant’s lax environmental standards let a toxic chemical contaminate the area, but never disclosed it to Oregon National Guard soldiers who were sickened, the soldiers said in a complaint filed Wednesday.
The complaint in U.S. District Court in Oregon alleges Kellogg, Brown and Root knew about the presence of sodium dichromate at the Qarmat Ali water treatment plant months before the date they originally gave in testimony and depositions.
A message left Wednesday for KBR was not immediately returned.
Sodium dichromate is an anticorrosive compound that can cause skin and breathing problems and cancer.
The soldiers, suffering from myriad respiratory problems, migraines and lung issues, sued KBR in June 2009.
The company acknowledged the presence of sodium dichromate in July 2003; a former employee later revealed an email to his managers that showed the company knew of the chemical in June 2003.
But the report uncovered by the soldiers’ attorneys points to KBR knowing about the presence of sodium dichromate in January 2003.
The soldiers say they only learned of the alleged misrepresentation in late February, after a Department of Defense inspector general investigation directed them to a 2002 KBR assessment of the plant.
Attorneys for the soldiers called the company’s earlier explanation “deliberate, calculated concealment,” according to the complaint. Guard soldiers from Oregon, Indiana and West Virginia who provided security at the Qarmat Ali water plant are involved in suits against KBR.
War profiteering has never been so profitable for the wrongdoer and so dangerous for our troops and the taxpayer. Please sign my petition (SIGN HERE)
More than 200 soldiers are suing KBR for knowingly exposing them to toxic chemicals in Iraq, whose effects started with nose bleeds and could end with cancer. KBR says that didn’t happen. But even if it did, the company isn’t responsible. Taxpayers are.
even if KBR is found liable, an indemnity clause in the company’s contract means that it won’t have to cover legal costs. There’s a reason both KBR and the Army wanted a last-minute addition to the contract to remain classified for as long as possible: It indemnifies KBR for any soldier’s on-site injury or death — even if due to the company’s willful misconduct.
The Houston Press February 15, 2012
Larry Roberta, a specialist in the Oregon National Guard, sat on a stack of sacks brimming with one of the most carcinogenic chemicals known to man and chomped on his chicken patty.
Unsuccessful in his mission to swap his rations with any of the British soldiers, who were stocked with heavenly corned beef hash and chocolate pudding, he braved the mystery meat’s gooey coating while keeping an eye on the contractors’ trailer a few yards away. While the Kellogg Brown & Root guys ate inside the trailer, Roberta could’ve taken lunch in one of the vehicles, but he figured vehicles were prime targets for any insurgents or Saddam loyalists who might be scouring the area. Better to suffer the hundred-plus-degree heat.
To Roberta’s knowledge, the chicken patty, with its gooey coating, was the only toxic substance he was currently in contact with. The sand around the sacks was mixed with a dark-orange, crystalline powder, but it didn’t faze him — the entire water-injection facility he was guarding was filthy with chemical residue.
The facility, Qarmat Ali, was a sprawling, approximately 50-acre plant where chemically treated water was pumped deep underground to maintain balance in the reservoirs while the oil was extracted. The plant had already felt the pains from years of U.N. sanctions before looters descended like human twisters in early spring and ran away with whatever wasn’t bolted down, and much of what was, knocking out electricity and leaving some buildings as mere husks. One building was littered with human feces; exposed machinery was coated with sludge and sand and colored powders.
So here it is: A contract dispute led to a major development in a major war of the United States – and that is Paul’s point.
Reduced to its essentials every argument and debate about the use of private military and security contractors comes down to two words; outsourcing and privatization. The argument is simply whether they are good and bad.
Personally I think that, like most other things, the answer is maybe. Hey, if you want absolutes take up physics.
But lately, partly I suppose, in response to the predictable quadrennial Republican party blather about the glories of the free market – cue the inevitable segue into why America needs a purported businessman like Mitt Romney to “fix America” – my repressed academic side has been pondering the pitfalls of privatizing the battlefield.
Before going any further let me acknowledge the contribution and sacrifice of PMSC personnel. To paraphrase Winston Churchill, never has so much depended on such an unacknowledged few.
That said, let’s turn to one of the iconic contractor moments of the U.S.involvement in Iraq; the killing of four Blackwater contractors in Fallujah in 2004.
The Exclusive Remedy was intended to be trade off to keep injured contractors from having litigate with their employers when they are injured. As it turns out the employers are off the hook and the injured contractors fight for years for medical care and lost wages from private insurance companies, AIG, CNA, ACE
AIG has fought the survivors and families of those killed like they were common criminals for the death, medical, and lost wages that were to be provided “forthwith”.
And no one believes this could happen until it happens to them and their family.
Bloomberg January 12, 2012
KBR Inc. (KBR) and its former corporate parent, Halliburton Co. (HAL), won’t face a jury on claims they sent unarmed civilian convoy drivers into an Iraqi battle zone in 2004, knowing the workers would be injured or killed, an appeals court ruled.
The U.S. Court of Appeals in New Orleans today ruled the drivers’ claims were blocked by the Defense Base Act, a U.S. law that shields military contractors from lawsuits. The drivers were attacked and injured because of their role in support operations for the U.S. Army, which is covered under that statute, the judges said.
“Coverage of an injury under the DBA precludes an employee from recovering from his employer,” even if the worker claims the company was “substantially certain” the injuries would occur, U.S. Circuit Judge Priscilla R. Owen said in a 30-page ruling by the panel.
KBR, a Houston-based government contractor, was sued in 2005 by the families of seven drivers killed while working inIraq for the largest U.S. military contractor. The company appealed a 2010 lower-court ruling that jurors could weigh the companies’ actions without second-guessing the actions of the Army.
U.S. District Judge Gray Miller, who presided over the case in Houston federal court, refused to dismiss Halliburton, which spun off KBR as a separate company in 2007. Miller had also ruled that the companies couldn’t name the military as a co-defendant in the lawsuits, so the Army wasn’t required to defend its actions.
The drivers and their families claimed KBR officials fraudulently recruited workers for safe jobs in Iraq and intentionally sent unarmed civilians into a recognized combat zone in April 2004. KBR’s military-supply contract gave company officials the right to refuse assignments deemed too dangerous for civilians, according to the complaints.
KBR and Halliburton argued that they weren’t liable because they couldn’t refuse Army orders to dispatch the fuel convoys under terms of their multibillion-dollar supply contract with the U.S. military. The convoys were attacked at a time when Iraqi insurgents were escalating the fight against U.S. troops that had taken over the country to oust dictator Saddam Hussein.
The case is Fisher v. Halliburton, 10-20202, U.S. Court of Appeals, Fifth Circuit (New Orleans).