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KBR asks federal judge to dismiss case brought by Oregon soldiers

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Mike Francis, The Oregonian By Mike Francis, The Oregonian The Oregonian

KBR asks federal judge to dismiss case brought by Oregon soldiers

Lawyers for defense contractor KBR Inc. asked a federal judge in Portland Friday to dismiss the suit brought by a group of Oregon National Guard soldiers who said the KBR knowingly exposed them to a carcinogenic compound while they served in Iraq in 2003.

U.S. District Judge Paul Papak heard the arguments for two hours Friday morning, then said he would rule on KBR’s request in the coming weeks.

Friday’s arguments, while delivered in calm and measured tones, included some stinging accusations. KBR’s lawyer said the soldiers’ primary medical expert is “a junk scientist who cannot be trusted.” And the soldiers’ lawyer said KBR committed “fraud” in its conduct at the Qarmat Ali water treatment plant and in its actions afterward.

While KBR is technically asking the judge to dismiss the entire case brought by 34 Oregon National Guard soldiers, KBR lawyer Geoffrey Harrison of the Houston law firm of Susman Godfrey acknowledged that he expects some subset of the group will survive the legal challenge and proceed toward trial.

That trial is currently scheduled for June 5, but that date appears to be “in severe jeopardy,” said Jeffrey Eden of Portland’s Schwabe, Williamson & Wyatt, also representing KBR. Judge Papak agreed that a delay is likely because of the need to work through a variety of legal challenges brought both sets of lawyers.

Lawyers for the soldiers said they worry that KBR’s filings could delay the case “for years.” Said soldiers’ lawyer David Sugerman of Portland, “we need to get this case to trial.”

The lawsuit’s roots lie in the spring and summer of 2003, when Oregon National Guard soldiers and other U.S. and British troops provided security for KBR contractors who were trying to restore a damaged water treatment plant that was used to help produce Iraqi oil.

Among the substances at the plant was a carcinogenic compound called sodium dichromate, used to prevent corrosion.

Some of the Oregon soldiers have shown symptoms, from nosebleeds to skin rashes, that their lawyers say was caused by exposure to the chemical. And they say their exposure to sodium dichromate increases their risk of developing cancer.

KBR argues that they haven’t proven that.

-Mike Francis

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Posted by on Jan 30 2012. Filed under KBR Lawsuits, Oregon Lawsuits, Oregon Live. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

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