A federal jury verdict last week awarded 12 Oregon soldiers $85 million for illnesses linked to a military contractor that knowingly exposed them to toxic chromium dust in Iraq. The result could have implications for 60 similarly situated Indiana National Guard members who are awaiting their day in court.
The verdict returned in U.S. District Court for the District of Oregon found military contractor Kellogg, Brown & Root acted with “reckless and outrageous indifference to a highly unreasonable risk of harm and conscious indifference to the health, safety, and welfare” of U.S. soldiers. The troops were stationed at a water treatment plant at Qarmat Ali, Iraq in 2003, according to a statement from Cohen & Malad LLC, one of three firms representing the Oregon soldiers in Rocky Bixby, et al., v. KBR, Inc., et al, 3:09-CV-632-PK.
The Indiana Guardsmen of the 1-152 Infantry Battalion are among about 150 other soldiers who have sued claiming they were sickened by the carcinogen sodium dichromate, an orange powder the troops noticed while guarding the water facility that KBR was hired to rehabilitate. According to the statement from Cohen & Malad, the suits allege that KBR said the powder was a mild irritant after guardsmen complained of symptoms such as severe nosebleeds, difficulty breathing and debilitating headaches.
Soldiers have since suffered worsening health problems including cancer, and two have died, the statement said.
The Indiana Guardsmen’s complaint is included in McManaway, et al., vs. KBR, Inc., et al., 4:10-CV-01044, in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Texas in Houston.