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Iraq veteran disabled by “Iraq’s Agent Orange” due to exposure to hexavalent chromium March 9, 2009

Posted by Aaron Walter in Uncategorized.
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The March 7, 2009 issue of the “Oregonian” tells the tale of Oregon Army National Guardsman Larry Roberta, who sadly suffers from a host of respitory disorders due to his 2003 exposure to hexavalent chromium in Iraq.

Six years later, and after law suits have been filed against KBR for their alleged failure to test for the substance at a contaminated oil facility, the Army has finally notified Guardsman Roberta’s fellow soldiers that they too may have been exposed to the same toxic chemicals.

We don’t yet know what will come of Larry Roberta and his fellow soldiers. How many other soldiers, contractors, or Iraqi civilians will develop similar lung disorders?

Unfortunately, this is not the only reported case of respitory disfunction to come out of Iraq or Afghanistan. On top of the fact that the dusty/sandy environment contributes to lung problems amongst asthmatics or those with COPD, there are fears that practices such as having large “Burn pits” at or close to camps may contribute to some disorders.

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Iraq electrocutions higher than previously reported September 23, 2008

Posted by Aaron Walter in Uncategorized.
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A September 9, 2008 AP article reveals that there have been at least 18 electrocutions in Iraq involving U.S. soldiers or civilian contractors. A May 28, 2008 CNN article on one such incident placed the number of soliders electrocuted at only 12.   As if soldiers and contractors didn’t have enough to worry about concerning the obvious dangers in Iraq.

As I have learned from a recent electrocution victim our firm is representing, electrocutions can result in any number of physical or neurological disorders as well as debilitating Post Traumatic Stress Disorder symptoms.

For more on electrocutions in Iraq, visit Ms. Sparky’s Mishaps and Misadventures a website from a former KBR electrician. Ms. Sparky (Debbie Crawford) recently testified before the Senate Democratic Policy Committee on Soldier Electrocutions and seeks to bring attention to safety conditions in Iraq.  She is looking for former contractors and military personal to share their observations regarding electrical safety at camps/bases.

WASHINGTON — The number of U.S. troops and contractors electrocuted in Iraq is higher than previously reported, and now stands at 18, a senator said yesterday.

Sen. Bob Casey, D-Pa., issued a statement with the revised number after a briefing by the Pentagon’s inspector general’s office. The IG’s office has been investigating the death of a Green Beret from Pittsburgh’s Shaler suburb, Sgt. Ryan Maseth, who was electrocuted in January while showering in his barracks in Iraq.

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Will the Defense Base Act foil the recent class action law suit against KBR? September 12, 2008

Posted by Aaron Walter in Uncategorized.
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The Fulton County Daily Report has reported that a firm right here in Atlanta, Georgia has filed a class action law suit in Fulton County Superior Court against Kellog, Root, & Brown (KBR) alleging that the company has employed poorly trained and under-qualified workers in Iraq, leading to injurious results for countless fellow employees.

I could agree with that allegation. The problem is, you guessed it, the name of this blog – The Defense Base Act. But first, let me tell you the facts of this case as set out in the above article.

The suit in question is filed on behalf of Curtis “Bubba” Coffey, who was injured when a co-worker, a Kenyan national, who spoke little English, moved a wrecker in the wrong direction.  

“Coffey’s hand was caught in the truck’s machinery and his finger “mangled such that, even after multiple treatments and surgery, he does not have use of his finger.” The resulting pain means he can no longer work and requires heavy medication to sleep, according to the complaint.

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Defense Base Act applied to human trafficking case in Iraq July 19, 2008

Posted by Aaron Walter in Uncategorized.
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I came accross this July 11, 2008 story from the Washington Business Journal.

It tells the sad tale of 12 men from Nepal hired by KBR subcontractor, Daoud & Partners to work in a luxury hotel in Jordan. Unfortunately, these men were forcibily re-directed, if not kidnapped, by the subcontractor and sent to Iraq to serve as cheap labor at US military bases. In an even more unfortunate turn of events, the men were kidnapped by insurgents and eventually killed.

The case is a good example of how wide the reach of the Defense Base Act really.  It does not merely provide coverage for workers ON military bases. It covers all employees of contractors working for/with the US government, including both US Citizens and foreign nationals.

One thing to note though is that whether you are from Nepal, Germany, Russia, or Houston, Texas, the DBA provides that your weekly benefits will be paid in US dollars. Given the state of the US Dollar, that isn’t always a good thing.

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Fisher v. Halliburton – KBR Lawsuit Revived July 17, 2008

Posted by Herb Chestnut in Uncategorized.
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Last month, in a somewhat surprising decision, U.S. 5th Circuit Court of Appeals reversed a District Court ruling that employees of KBR could not sue their employer in tort.  The opinion involved the so-called “Good Friday Massacre” where several truck drivers employed by KBR lost their lives when attacked by insurgents.  The plaintiffs sued KBR alleging, among other things, that KBR had falsely and fraudulently induced them to come to work in Iraq with the assurances of KBR that they would be completely safe.  The U.S. military was responsible for the protection of the contractors and KBR’s defense contractors used this fact to convince the lower court to dismiss the suit.

The theory behind the dismissal was the trial judge’s opinion that the plaintiff’s could not prove their case without necessarily bringing into question the Bush Administation’s policies and strategies for protection of civilians in Iraq.  This being the case, the claims of the plaintiff’s necesarily involved “political questions” regarding the Executive branch and the Judicial branch, the courts, are prohibited from interfering in the function of the Executive branch. 

While the theory of the defense was creative, it was a very harsh result due to the the facts of the case .  The plaintiffs in the suits (four suits were consolidated and decided together) alleged that KBR had assured potential employees that they would have “[f]ull 24 hour a day U.S. military protection…” to insure safety and that employees would be “…100% safe.”  On April 8, 2004, plaintiff Kevin Smith-Idol was injured when his convoy was attacked by insurgernts.  The next day, several more trucks were sent on the same route resulting in more injuries and deaths to KBR employees.  There were allegations that the route had been closed by the military and the Army had been engaged in a 48 hour battle with over 300 insurgents.  In summary, KBR sent unarmed civilians into not only a “war zone” but an active battle.

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The Defense Base Act does not apply to KBR? Be careful what you wish for April 14, 2008

Posted by Aaron Walter in Uncategorized.
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I have been reading a lot of comments throughout the internet cheering the recent tort suits against KBR regarding the Good Friday Massacre and also potential sodium dichromate exposures.

See  – “Hoist by their own petard” and “Suing the crap out of KBR.”

Part of their argument is that KBR should not be able to “hide behind” what has been described by many bloggers as the “archaic World War II-era law” protecting KBR from liability for injuries to their employees in Iraq. That law, of course, is the Defense Base Act (as an extension to the Longshore and Harbor Workers’ Compensation Act).

It has recently come to light that KBR was running a bit a tax scam on the United States. Some surmise that this means KBR is admitting they are not a US Corporation and are therefore not entitled to “hide behind” the Defense Base Act. Several bloggers appear to figuratively point their fingers and laugh at KBR for their arrogance in trying to both benefit from US law and foreign tax benefits.

I have no love for KBR. I have already been critical of their unique tax accounting. Additionally, I have been critical of AIG, the insurer in 90% of DBA cases. They overcharged contractors for DBA insurance, at least for the first couple years of the war. Those bills were passed directly to US taxpayers, who essentially pay these premiums for every contractor over in Iraq/Afghanistan. 

But, back to the topic at hand –  lets say KBR, now a foreign corporation, should be found unable to claim refuge from negligence based personal injury actions by its employees. (NOTE: Even under the DBA, KBR could be sued in a personal injury/tort action if the injury were due to intentional actions by KBR). This would mean that the Defense Base Act does not protect KBR. Yeah! Lets all cheer and rejoice!

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