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Judge dismisses Indiana soldiers’ Iraq suit

By Jon Murray
Indystar.com

A federal judge today dismissed a lawsuit accusing a large defense contractor of concealing the risks faced by nearly 140 Indiana National Guard soldiers potentially exposed to a cancer-causing agent in Iraq.

The ruling did not address any of the claims in the lawsuit, which could still be pursued elsewhere by the attorneys for the 47 Indiana Guard soldiers serving as plaintiffs. Chief Judge Richard L. Young ruled that the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Indiana lacks “personal jurisdiction” over Texas-based KBR and several related companies.

The dismissal was based in part on a finding that the actions at issue in the suit took place outside Indiana even if the health effects are only being felt now. And the KBR companies’ limited contacts in Indiana — they have no offices here but have held contracts in Indiana — amount to an insufficient business footprint.

Mike Doyle, one of the plaintiffs’ attorneys, said the legal team plans to file a new version of the lawsuit in another jurisdiction as soon as possible, but he did not specify where.

“This development delays but does not deny justice for the Indiana Guardsmen in this case,” Doyle said in a statement. “The truth of what happened at Qarmat Ali will be told, and we believe it will be told in a federal court.”

KBR also issued a statement: “We are pleased with the ruling and believe Judge Young made the right decision regarding jurisdiction in this case. Regarding the general allegations in the litigation, KBR maintains that plaintiffs’ claims are unsupported by the evidence.”

Most of the plaintiffs served with a Tell City, Ind., unit sent to Iraq with the Indiana National Guard’s 1st Battalion, 152nd Infantry Regiment, based in Jasper. For three months beginning in May 2003, the unit provided security for KBR employees charged with rebuilding the Qarmat Ali water-pumping plant near Basra.

Restoring the plant was a key step in restoring oil production.

The suit says the site was covered in sodium dichromate, an industrial chemical normally used to remove pipe corrosion. It contained heavy doses of a carcinogen called hexavalent chromium that is known to heighten the risk for cancer of the lungs and respiratory tract.

Some of the Indiana soldiers have developed rashes and other health problems since their return.

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Posted by Doyle Raizner llp on Feb 25 2010. Filed under Indianapolis Star, Qarmat Ali News. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback to this entry

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