Is Your Prime Contractor Killing You? Courts in U.S. Considering Rights Of Those Harmed by Exposures to Toxic Pollution Overseas


GB.AFG.10.0283 (Photo credit: balazsgardi)

Civilian contractors and U.S. military personnel who worked in Iraq and Afghanistan have filed dozens of lawsuits in courts around the United States alleging prime contractor KBR negligently polluted their environment and subsequently caused them to suffer serious chronic and even deadly illnesses.

Open Burn Pit Toxic Pollution

Civilian contractors and U.S. military personnel who worked overseas are suing KBR for its alleged negligence burning trash in open air pits that spewed toxic substances into the air. These lawsuits claim the toxic fumes and ash coming from these pits later caused chronic or even deadly illnesses in those who lived and worked near these pits.

KBR had contracted with the U.S. government to handle the tons of waste generated at military bases in Iraq and Afghanistan. Burn pits were the popular method for managing waste especially in the early years of the two wars. According to reports, materials known to create toxic pollutants when burned were tossed into these pits, including batteries, plastics and jet fuel used as an accelerant. Dead animals, human body parts and medical waste were also part of the mix.

As the lawsuits wind their way through the judicial system, KBR in turn is seeking dismissal, arguing its status as a government contractor should enable it to enjoy the same immunity from lawsuits as the government.

Water Plant Toxic Substance Exposure

Meanwhile, KBR recently was found guilty of negligence in its reconstruction work at an oil field water plant, called Qarmat Ali, in 2003 and ordered to pay $85 million to 12 Oregon National Guard soldiers who were exposed to a toxic substance while guarding the site.

KBR was accused of allowing bags of sodium dichromate, a corrosive substance used to keep pipes at the water plant free of rust, to spread across the plant an into the air rather than be cleaned up. The soldiers said they have suffered chronic respiratory ailments dues to being exposed to the substance. They fear the exposure could cause cancer later.

KBR is expected to appeal the verdict. In addition, it has filed a lawsuit seeking to force the U.S. government to pay the soldiers’ damages and attorney fees. KBR argues an indemnification clause in its contract requires the government to pay for any third-party lawsuits.

Similar suits are pending in Texas and West Virginia.

Contractors’ Rights to Pursue Prime Contractor and Government Misconduct

Contractors should not be deterred in pursuing their rights and fighting against what they believe to be wrongful conduct.

If you are a subcontractor who has observed your prime contractor or the government putting your safety and health at risk, you may have rights and should seek competent legal advice.

For more information about the services we provide to government contractors, see our page here.

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