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Judge dismisses soldiers' toxic exposure suit

Jennifer Nelson
February 26, 2010
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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.

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  1. Indianapolis employers harassment among minorities AFRICAN Americans needs to be discussed the metro Indianapolis area is horrible when it comes to harassing African American employees especially in the local healthcare facilities. Racially profiling in the workplace is an major issue. Please make it better because I'm many civil rights leaders would come here and justify that Indiana is a state the WORKS only applies to Caucasian Americans especially in Hamilton county. Indiana targets African Americans in the workplace so when governor pence is trying to convince people to vote for him this would be awesome publicity for the Presidency Elections.

  2. Wishing Mary Willis only God's best, and superhuman strength, as she attempts to right a ship that too often strays far off course. May she never suffer this personal affect, as some do who attempt to change a broken system: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QojajMsd2nE

  3. Indiana's seatbelt law is not punishable as a crime. It is an infraction. Apparently some of our Circuit judges have deemed settled law inapplicable if it fails to fit their litmus test of political correctness. Extrapolating to redefine terms of behavior in a violation of immigration law to the entire body of criminal law leaves a smorgasbord of opportunity for judicial mischief.

  4. I wonder if $10 diversions for failure to wear seat belts are considered moral turpitude in federal immigration law like they are under Indiana law? Anyone know?

  5. What a fine article, thank you! I can testify firsthand and by detailed legal reports (at end of this note) as to the dire consequences of rejecting this truth from the fine article above: "The inclusion and expansion of this right [to jury] in Indiana’s Constitution is a clear reflection of our state’s intention to emphasize the importance of every Hoosier’s right to make their case in front of a jury of their peers." Over $20? Every Hoosier? Well then how about when your very vocation is on the line? How about instead of a jury of peers, one faces a bevy of political appointees, mini-czars, who care less about due process of the law than the real czars did? Instead of trial by jury, trial by ideological ordeal run by Orwellian agents? Well that is built into more than a few administrative law committees of the Ind S.Ct., and it is now being weaponized, as is revealed in articles posted at this ezine, to root out post moderns heresies like refusal to stand and pledge allegiance to all things politically correct. My career was burned at the stake for not so saluting, but I think I was just one of the early logs. Due, at least in part, to the removal of the jury from bar admission and bar discipline cases, many more fires will soon be lit. Perhaps one awaits you, dear heretic? Oh, at that Ind. article 12 plank about a remedy at law for every damage done ... ah, well, the founders evidently meant only for those damages done not by the government itself, rabid statists that they were. (Yes, that was sarcasm.) My written reports available here: Denied petition for cert (this time around): http://tinyurl.com/zdmawmw Denied petition for cert (from the 2009 denial and five year banishment): http://tinyurl.com/zcypybh Related, not written by me: Amicus brief: http://tinyurl.com/hvh7qgp

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