Oregon Judge Upholds $81 Million Judgment Against KBR in Toxic Chemical Case

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Poor KBR just can't get a break -- a federal judge in Oregon has affirmed an $81 million judgment against the Houston-based firm for exposing National Guard soldiers to a deadly chemical at an Iraqi water injection plant in 2003. The judgment was awarded to the first 12 veterans, out of hundreds still waiting, to bring their claims to trial.

Twin suits were filed in Portland and Houston against KBR on behalf of hundreds of military personnel who provided security for KBR staff at the Qarmat Ali plant, and who had become sick after breathing in sodium dichromate, which contains a carcinogenic called hexavalent chromium. Internal memos showed that higher-ups at KBR knew the chemical was onsite but did not inform the soldiers of the risks.

Magistrate Judge Paul Papak stated in his 63-page ruling that "a preponderance of the trial evidence establishes that [KBR]...affirmatively misrepresented the extent of the risk posed by sodium dichromate at Qarmat Ali...."

KBR had originally been ordered to pay $85 million in November, but Papak cut compensatory damages from $850,000 to $500,000 per veteran, to meet state requirements, according to The Oregonian.

Unhappy with that verdict, KBR's lawyers asked to interview the jurors, whom they believed had been exposed to outside -- and misleading -- information to render their verdict.

Mike Doyle, one of the Houston attorneys representing the veterans, told Hair Balls in an e-mail that "Along with affirming that judgment on the jury verdict against KBR is wholly appropriate, the trial judge that heard the same evidence for the entirety of the trial independently confirmed KBR's affirmative and egregious concealment of the hazards from the soldiers and their commanders, leaving each veteran with the lifelong impacts of their harmful exposure at KBR's Qarmat Ali work site."

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