After KBR was ordered in November to pay $85 million to a dozen Oregon National Guard soldiers who were exposed to a toxic chemical while providing security for contractors in Iraq in 2003, we figured there'd be some foot-stomping and an immediate appeal. We didn't think KBR would have the chutzpah to file a request to interview jurors who they believed relied on outside, erroneous information to render an unjust verdict.
But that's just what lawyers for KBR did, recently released court records show. Citing an article from The Oregonian that quotes some jurors on why they ruled in favor of the soldiers, KBR's attorneys argued that there were "clear indications this jury was exposed to extraneous information or ex parte contacts [contacts from the plaintiffs' attorneys only]. These circumstances are evidence of juror misconduct that may warrant a new trial. This Court should allow KBR to conduct voluntary interviews of the members of the jury to determine whether an evidentiary hearing is necessary."
KBR's attorneys argued that jurors were not presented with any evidence showing that KBR was aware of the presence of sodium dichromate at the Qarmat Ali water injection facility before arriving there.
"The absence of evidence raises the question: What is the source of information upon which these jurors relied in reaching their false conclusion?" The lawyers then answer their own question: Jurors could have Googled Qarmat Ali on their own time, thus exposing themselves to all the lies the money-grubbing soldiers and their lawyers were using to beat up on poor ol' KBR.
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Plaintiffs' attorneys, including Houston's Mike Doyle, responded to KBR's assertions by claiming the company deliberately mischaracterized the Oregonian article to the court, and by suggesting jurors reached their decision simply on the strength of the evidence.
The judge agreed, stating in a December 19 order that "evidence was presented at trial from which a finder of fact could reasonably have concluded that KBR was aware of the likely presence of sodium dichromate at Qarmat Ali prior to beginning operations there."
Since there are 162 more plaintiffs seeking damages, with a potential $1.1 billion price tag (according to their attorneys' estimate), we can understand KBR's trepidation. Disagreeing with a verdict is one thing; accusing jurors of misconduct is downright disgraceful. Moreover, according to KBR's sweetheart contract, KBR may not even have to pay the damages -- that cost may be shifted to taxpayers.
It's also another slap in the face to the veterans KBR has already mistreated; the people who put their lives on the line, and who were ultimately lied to, while KBR executives raked in the dough. For shame.