Judge dismisses soldiers' toxic exposure suit

Jennifer Nelson
February 26, 2010
Back to TopCommentsE-mailPrintBookmark and Share

A federal judge has dismissed for lack of personal jurisdiction a suit brought by soldiers who were exposed while in Iraq to a toxic chemical known to increase the risk of developing cancer.

Members of the Indiana National Guard sued Texas contractors for whom the soldiers provided security at a water treatment facility in Iraq in 2003. The soldiers claimed the contractors knew the site was heavily contaminated with sodium dichromate, a toxic chemical that may increase the risk of cancer or other life-threatening illnesses.

Sixteen members filed the suit against KBR, Inc. and other contractors in December 2008, which grew to 47 plaintiffs.

The soldiers claimed they were repeatedly told by the company there was no danger on the site while they worked there, and that their bloody noses and skin lesions were a result of the dry desert air. The contaminated site was shut down in September 2003.

Using the "effects test," first articulated in Calder v. Jones, 465 U.S. 783 (1984), to determine whether the federal court has personal jurisdiction over the suit, Chief Judge Richard Young of the U.S. District Court's Southern District decided to grant the contractors' motion to dismiss the plaintiffs' third amended complaint, Mark McManaway, et al. v. KBR, Inc., et al., No. 3:08-CV-186.

The plaintiffs argued the contractors' tortious actions were aimed at Indiana because they knew that the soldiers would return to Indiana after being exposed to the chemical. But the soldiers didn't establish that KBR and the other contractors knew the soldiers intended to return to Indiana after leaving Iraq, and some of the plaintiffs are now living in other states, wrote the judge. In addition, the injury occurred in Iraq when the soldiers were exposed to the chemical. While the effects of that injury may be felt in Indiana, the tort does not relocate from Iraq to Indiana, Chief Judge Young continued.

The chief judge also found the contractors' contacts with Indiana weren't sufficient to allow the court to exercise general jurisdiction over them. As such, he granted the defendants' motion to dismiss for lack of personal jurisdiction. The contractors' two previously filed motions to dismiss for lack of personal jurisdiction based on the original and second amended complaints were denied as moot.


Post a comment to this story

We reserve the right to remove any post that we feel is obscene, profane, vulgar, racist, sexually explicit, abusive, or hateful.
You are legally responsible for what you post and your anonymity is not guaranteed.
Posts that insult, defame, threaten, harass or abuse other readers or people mentioned in Indiana Lawyer editorial content are also subject to removal. Please respect the privacy of individuals and refrain from posting personal information.
No solicitations, spamming or advertisements are allowed. Readers may post links to other informational websites that are relevant to the topic at hand, but please do not link to objectionable material.
We may remove messages that are unrelated to the topic, encourage illegal activity, use all capital letters or are unreadable.

Messages that are flagged by readers as objectionable will be reviewed and may or may not be removed. Please do not flag a post simply because you disagree with it.

Sponsored by
Subscribe to Indiana Lawyer
  1. I think the cops are doing a great job locking up criminals. The Murder rates in the inner cities are skyrocketing and you think that too any people are being incarcerated. Maybe we need to lock up more of them. We have the ACLU, BLM, NAACP, Civil right Division of the DOJ, the innocent Project etc. We have court system with an appeal process that can go on for years, with attorneys supplied by the government. I'm confused as to how that translates into the idea that the defendants are not being represented properly. Maybe the attorneys need to do more Pro-Bono work

  2. We do not have 10% of our population (which would mean about 32 million) incarcerated. It's closer to 2%.

  3. If a class action suit or other manner of retribution is possible, count me in. I have email and voicemail from the man. He colluded with opposing counsel, I am certain. My case was damaged so severely it nearly lost me everything and I am still paying dearly.

  4. There's probably a lot of blame that can be cast around for Indiana Tech's abysmal bar passage rate this last February. The folks who decided that Indiana, a state with roughly 16,000 to 18,000 attorneys, needs a fifth law school need to question the motives that drove their support of this project. Others, who have been "strong supporters" of the law school, should likewise ask themselves why they believe this institution should be supported. Is it because it fills some real need in the state? Or is it, instead, nothing more than a resume builder for those who teach there part-time? And others who make excuses for the students' poor performance, especially those who offer nothing more than conspiracy theories to back up their claims--who are they helping? What evidence do they have to support their posturing? Ultimately, though, like most everything in life, whether one succeeds or fails is entirely within one's own hands. At least one student from Indiana Tech proved this when he/she took and passed the February bar. A second Indiana Tech student proved this when they took the bar in another state and passed. As for the remaining 9 who took the bar and didn't pass (apparently, one of the students successfully appealed his/her original score), it's now up to them (and nobody else) to ensure that they pass on their second attempt. These folks should feel no shame; many currently successful practicing attorneys failed the bar exam on their first try. These same attorneys picked themselves up, dusted themselves off, and got back to the rigorous study needed to ensure they would pass on their second go 'round. This is what the Indiana Tech students who didn't pass the first time need to do. Of course, none of this answers such questions as whether Indiana Tech should be accredited by the ABA, whether the school should keep its doors open, or, most importantly, whether it should have even opened its doors in the first place. Those who promoted the idea of a fifth law school in Indiana need to do a lot of soul-searching regarding their decisions. These same people should never be allowed, again, to have a say about the future of legal education in this state or anywhere else. Indiana already has four law schools. That's probably one more than it really needs. But it's more than enough.

  5. This man Steve Hubbard goes on any online post or forum he can find and tries to push his company. He said court reporters would be obsolete a few years ago, yet here we are. How does he have time to search out every single post about court reporters and even spy in private court reporting forums if his company is so successful???? Dude, get a life. And back to what this post was about, I agree that some national firms cause a huge problem.