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Federal jury awards Oregon National Guard soldiers $85 million in KBR case

A federal jury in Portland on Friday awarded $85 million to 12 Oregon Army National Guard soldiers who claimed military contractor KBR Inc. knowingly exposed them to a carcinogen at a water treatment plant they guarded in Iraq in 2003.

The jury unanimously found KBR was negligent and showed “reckless and outrageous indifference” to the health, safety and welfare of the soldiers, each of which was awarded $850,000 in non-economic damages and $6.25 million in punitive damages in the case of Rocky Bixby, et al., v. KBR, Inc., et al.

The Oregon National Guard soldiers, along with other U.S. and British military personnel, guarded the Qarmat Ali water treatment plant, near Basra, Iraq, which KBR was contracted to rehabilitate by the U.S. government. The soldiers alleged KBR misled them about the presence and risks associated with sodium dichromate, an anticorrosive agent used to clean pipes at the plant. Sodium dichromate contains hexavalent chromium, a known carcinogen banned in the U.S.

Trial evidence included KBR documents noting a “serious health problem” at Qarmat Ali and “almost 60 percent of the people now exhibit the symptoms” of sodium dichromate exposure.

The soldiers testified they have health problems, including respiratory, skin, gastrointestinal, and lung issues because of the toxic exposure.

The soldiers are represented by attorneys Michael Patrick Doyle, Jeffrey L. Raizner, and Patrick M. Dennis, of Doyle Raizner LLP of Houston; Gabriel Hawkins, of Cohen & Malad LLP of Indianapolis; and David F. Sugerman, of David F. Sugerman Attorney PC of Portland.

About 150 more Qarmat Ali-related claims are pending against KBR in federal courts in Portland and Houston.