Overseas Civilian Contractors

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Judge dismisses W.Va. soldiers’ case against KBR

Associated Press

WHEELING, W.Va. — A federal judge in West Virginia has dismissed two lawsuits filed by National Guardsmen who believe they were exposed to toxic chemicals in Iraq, and those soldiers now plan to join similar litigation in Texas.

U.S. District Judge Frederick Stamp recently ruled he has no jurisdiction over the case, which involves Texas-based military contractor Kellogg Brown & Root Services Inc. and KBR Technical Services.

Wheeling attorney Bill Wilmoth, who represented KBR, said that while his client does recruiting and business in other states, the judge appropriately ruled KBR had not done enough in West Virginia to merit his jurisdiction.

Plaintiffs’ attorney Jeff Kessler said Tuesday that his clients aren’t giving up. They will join a similar case in Texas that already includes more than 100 guardsmen from Indiana.

“We are not going to drop it or forget about it because the boys were injured, were exposed and are having long-term and lasting repercussions from that,” said Kessler, who is also a state senator.

While his clients are disappointed they could not proceed in West Virginia, near their doctors, joining forces with fellow soldiers is a positive, Kessler said.

A similar toxic-exposure case against KBR has been filed by guardsmen in Oregon.

The soldiers say they were exposed to cancer-causing sodium dichromate while providing security for KBR workers at a water plant in Iraq in 2003. They say they’ve suffered long-term health problems, including respiratory struggles and nose bleeds.

KBR had been hired to restart the treatment plant, which had been looted and stripped bare. The Iraqis used hexavalent chromium, a component of sodium dichromate, to prevent pipe corrosion at the plant. That’s the same chemical linked to poisonings in California in a case made famous in the movie “Erin Brockovich.”

Some experts say hexavalent chromium can cause severe liver and kidney damage and studies have linked it to leukemia as well as bone, stomach and other cancers.

“It was a very interesting case, lots of interesting science and the war in Iraq — the kind of thing that normal lawyers in West Virginia don’t get a chance to see very often,” Wilmoth said, “and there is a real dispute among the scientists about whether or not this exposure could have resulted in symptoms this soon after the exposure.”

Legislation is pending in the U.S. Senate to help provide a registry that would identify and monitor soldiers exposed to hexavalent chromium in Iraq.

August 4, 2010 Posted by | KBR, Toxic | , , , , , | Leave a comment