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KBR to pay U.S. troops $85M in toxic exposure case

Assistant Managing Editor- Houston Business Journal

KBR Inc. (NYSE: KBR) has been ordered to pay 12 U.S. soldiers $85 million in damages for negligently exposing them to toxic chromium dust at a water treatment facility in Iraq in 2003, Bloomberg reports.

The case was the first to go to trial over injuries allegedly suffered by KBR employees or by troops guarding contractors at a water treatment facility in the Basrah oil fields at Qarmat Ali, Iraq. The facility was contaminated with sodium dichromate dust, which is a source of hexavalent chromium, a chemical that is known to cause cancer.

Houston-based KBR, the largest U.S. military contractor, was hired to rehabilitate the facility after Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein was overthrown in 2003, reports Bloomberg.

“KBR is being held accountable at last for putting profits above the welfare of the soldiers,” an attorney for the troops, Mike Doyle of Houston-based law firm Doyle Raizner LLP, told Bloomberg.

Jurors awarded each of the 12 soldiers $850,000 for non-economic damages and $6.25 million to each in punitive damages after finding KBR acted with “reckless and outrageous indifference” to their health and safety, according to the Nov. 2 verdict found in federal court in Portland, Ore., the report said.

Hundreds of other troops are suing KBR over alleged toxic exposure at Qarmat Ali. One case is on hold until the U.S. Court of Appeals in New Orleans determines whether claims are valid against a military contractor during war time, reports Bloomberg.

The Houston Press wrote a February cover story on the KBR lawsuits. Click here to read it.

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