Archive for military-contractors
Salon.com published a story addressing the dangerous work conditions millions of Americans endure every day. The article states the government documents 4,500 workplace deaths every year at a cost of $250 billion. Texas hosts “the nation’s highest number of workplace fatalities”.
West, Texas being the location of a catastrophic explosion is not happenstance. Texas promotes “antipathy toward regulations” and does not require workers compensation insurance be carried by businesses operating within the state. According to the New York Times, Texas has “more than three times the number of accidents, four times the number of injuries and deaths, and 300 times the property damage costs” as Illinois. The fertilizer plant where the blast originated had not been inspected by OSHA since 1985.
The author of the article, David Sirota, attributes this lack of concern at the number of workers who die every year and the lack of reaction to “a deregulated economy whose laws are written by corporate interests”. He cites those corporate interests as the roadblock for safety regulation and enforcement who uses politicians and their campaigns to ensure they don’t spend additional dollars on making workplaces safer.
NPR released an article recently addressing the large number of worker accidents in Texas and the demographics of the employees. Many are undocumented immigrants and exploited by companies seeking cheap, tax-free labor. This contributes to a corporate environment expecting optimized profits while maintaining low labor costs and the bare minimum safety regulations.
Doyle Raizner has represented clients and their families over the years that have been paralyzed, maimed, and killed as a result of poor workplace conditions. We stand behind them in their fight against corporate entities whose greed converts a workplace death to a cost of doing business.
Federal Times has reported on the mounting tensions between contractor KBR Inc. and the US Army over an ultimatum to provide a firm, fixed price on remaining work to close out the $38 billion Logistics Civil Augmentation Program (LOGCAP) III.
LOGCAP III is the 12-year-old logistics contract that has supported US military logistics operations in Iraq. The Army awarded the contract in 2001 and issued 160 tasks for everything from dining services to delivery of housing for civilian and military personnel. The original contract was considered a “cost plus” contract, which means KBR was paid its costs plus a guaranteed profit; the Army seeks to revise the pricing terms on the final work to be done on the contract to be firm, fixed pricing. KBR filed a lawsuit in response seeking to keep the “cost plus” nature of the contract.
The dispute started in July 2012, at that time the Army decided contract closeout activities must be performed on a fixed-price basis meaning KBR would need to provide a fixed dollar figure for the remaining work and absorb any excess costs. KBR responded they were unwilling to accept that due to the lack of scope or duration of work that needs to be completed.
KBR filed a case with the Government Accountability Office that was thrown out on jurisdictional grounds. The case was refiled in the US Court of Federal Claims and accused the Army of using the wrong type of contract, acting in bad faith and violating procurement regulations.
In emails submitted as part of the lawsuit, Army contracting officer Robert Egan told KBR he would not “enter further communication exchanges with” KBR’s contract team until he saw the FFP deliverable. KBR responded they were unwilling to accept such a proposal. KBR responded to Federal Times with a statement noting the company enjoys “frank, open and continuous communications with the Army.”
KBR has been paid enormous amounts for well
Doyle Raizner has filed suit against DynCorp International on behalf of an injured military contractor serving in Afghanistan. The plaintiff was injured when an employee of DynCorp made an unsafe and improper U-turn along a main route of Camp Davis and rammed into a portable laundry container in which she was stationed.
DynCorp International identifies itself as a “global government services provider in support of U.S. national security and foreign policy objectives.” The company also claims to “provide expertly conceived and professionally executed services.” As confirmed by the subsequent investigation, the collision was caused by the inattentive driving of DynCorp’s employee and was listed as drug/alcohol related. The collision resulted in serious injuries to the plaintiff which required medical treatment in the past and will require future medical care.
DynCorp’s acts constitute negligence in that the company, acting through its employee, failed to act in a reasonably prudent manner and violated laws and statutes of the United States. The company also acted in a way that constitutes gross negligence. DynCorp had knowledge of the risk involved at the time of the occurrences and proceeded with conscious indifference to the rights, safety and welfare of others resulting in the injury of the plaintiff.
Doyle Raizner stands behind their client in the fight against a military service provider more interested in profits than honoring an obligation to safety.
One of several motions heard by Judge Papak last month in Oregon Federal Court involved yet another attempt to lash out at the attorneys who proudly represent the veterans of Qarmat Ali. A jury awarded a bellwether group of twelve of the 162 veterans a total $85.2 million in November for KBR’s misconduct in exposing the veterans to sodium dichromate. With an award of nearly $7.1 million for each veteran, KBR’s own potential financial exposure to the remaining Veterans exceeds $1 billion if the remaining verdicts remain consistent with the bellwether trial verdict. Click here to read a synopsis of that trial and verdict.
Having lost the trial in front of an Oregon jury, KBR and its counsel have continued to try and shift blame for misconduct everywhere but towards their own actions. The topic at the center of the latest legal wrangling brought on by KBR’s attorneys concerns the limited ‘gag order’, generally restricting the parties’ rights to comment to the verdict. The order was effective throughout the trial, partially lifted after the verdict, and then fully lifted on December 19, 2012.
KBR complained about a post-trial email communication featuring plaintiffs’ attorney Mike Doyle. The email contained an embedded video narrated by Doyle and referenced the jury verdict. KBR argued the video violated the limited ‘gag order’. The email was distributed by Trial Guides, a commercial publisher of various legal guides and commentaries, and a link to the video can be found here.
Judge Papak rejected KBR’s latest attacks, confirming that the “statements were clearly not in violation of the previously imposed restrictive order”, and the communication “disclosed no information material to the parties’ dispute not already in the public record.”
The Department of Veterans Affairs has released information pertaining to the registries for chromium exposure at Qarmat Ali water treatment facility. The registry is important for continued health monitoring for veterans who may served at Qarmat Ali and have current health conditions or may develop conditions in the future.
Veterans who served at Qarmat Ali and the Gulf War should also participate in the Gulf War registry. Veterans who participate in the program will receive an initial exam, chest X-ray and pulmonary function test. The results will be tracked in the VA’s Gulf War Registry.
Important points about registry health exams:
Free to eligible Veterans and no co-payment
Not a disability compensation exam or required for other VA benefits
Enrollment in VA’s health care system not necessary
Based on Veterans’ recollection of service, not on their military records
Veterans can receive additional registry exams, if new problems develop
Veterans should contact their local program manager to make an appointment to enroll In the VA Qarmat Ali Medical Surveillance Program. Click here for a team locator.
We encourage all veterans who served at Qarmat Ali to join these registries. A burn pit registry is also being created. The registry was part of an improvement act signed on January 10, 2013, and gives the VA one year from signing to create the burn pit registry. We will continue to share updates as they develop.
A former Veterans Affairs researcher testified before the House Committee on Veterans Affairs this week about the organization’s efforts to minimize research that supports claims of Gulf War Illness and illness from burn pit exposure.
Steven Coughlin was an epidemiologist in the VA’s public health department until he resigned over a request to retract his claims concerning the concealed information and admit he had made a mistake. Coughlin also said “if the studies produce results that do not support the office of public health’s unwritten policy, they do not release them. “ He also testified about a panel of outside experts hired to study neurological connections to Gulf War illness for the Institute of Medicine. Coughlin maintains the panel was stacked in favor of those who believe Gulf War illness is psychological rather than neurological. Coughlin added “anything that supports the position that Gulf War illness is a neurological condition is unlikely to ever be published.”
Coughlin’s allegations were countered by Victoria Davey, chief officer of VA’s office of public health and environmental hazards. Davey never directly addressed the accusations levied against the VA but talked about the “cutting-edge” research the VA has conducted.
Coughlin was backed by Lea Steele, a researcher at the Veterans Health Research Program at Baylor University who said the VA has not managed an effective program. Steele echoed Coughlin when she said “studies consistently show Gulf War illness is not due to war trauma.”
Steele referenced the panel Coughlin viewed as stacked in favor of Gulf War illness as a psychological illness. The panel studied veterans from the past 20 years rather than a segment of Gulf War veterans. The symptoms of this broad group were lumped together so that neither cause nor treatment for “chronic multisymptom illness” could be found. Steele likened this to “medical malpractice”.
A Gulf War veteran and appointed member of the Congressionally Directed Gulf War Illness Research Medical Program,
The presiding judge in the Oregon litigation pitting veterans of the Oregon National Guard against military contractor, KBR, heard motions this week concerning the company’s attempts to overturn the jury verdict and obtain a new trial.
KBR’s request for the verdict to be overturned is another disregard of this country’s legal system. The jury pool became the voice of the community when they issued their verdict. A group comprised of responsible citizens of Oregon decided that KBR’s behavior was reprehensible and that there was evidence of wanton misconduct, establishing the veterans right to recover punitive damages. KBR’s wanton misconduct included falsely telling a commander that his soldiers had no reason to be concerned about the presence of sodium dichromate and referred to it as a mild irritant.
KBR also requested that the jury verdict amount be decreased claiming insufficient evidence of damages. The tone of the argument was aimed at labeling the veterans as a complainers who should be able to withstand the fear of their current and future illness by virtue of being soldiers who had signed up to protect and serve their country in Iraq… Sodium dichromate causes a variety of skin, digestive, and respiratory illnesses, among others, and genetic transformation from which the body may or may not heal itself once exposed. Essentially the soldiers are left not knowing whether they may develop serious illness in the future, including cancer.
The company also brought up the issue of personal jurisdiction, arguing that Oregon is not the appropriate venue for the case. All plaintiffs were members of the Oregon National Guard and were residents of Oregon at all relevant times. The record is replete with evidence that KBR directed intentional acts on Oregon residents, including intentional misstatements about sodium dichromate that were given to a commanding officer who then passed that information on to soldiers serving under him. Once the intentional act has been proven, all the Oregon
Through the Freedom of Information Act, The Huffington Post reported today that it has acquired the signed indemnity agreement between the United States Army and KBR (at the time known as Kellogg, Brown, and Root).
The Army official that signed the agreement at the insistence of the Houston-based private contractor was a former Enron executive. Thomas E. White was named secretary of the Army in 2001. He signed the agreement on March 19, 2003 after considering “the availability, costs and terms of private insurance to cover these risks, as well as the viability of self-insurance, and have concluded that adequate insurance to cover the unusually hazardous risks is not reasonably available.” His memo concluded that the use of the “indemnification clause in this contract will facilitate the national defense.” There is no indication that KBR disclosed at the time of the contract-add any information or knowledge KBR had about the longstanding, widespread use of hexavalent chromium at Qarmat Ali, or any other specific hazard to the troops and other men on the ground at KBR’s work sites.
White resigned his position as secretary on April 23, 2003 amid questions about his ties to Enron Corp. He sold millions of dollars in stock in 2001 and claimed it was a requirement under government ethics rules. White and his wife were also investigated by the Pentagon’s inspector general for using a military jet for personal travel.
The language of the no-bid, cost-plus with award fee contract relates to the bellwether trial against KBR in Oregon where 12 veterans were awarded more than $85 million in damages stemming from KBR’s knowing exposure of the men to hexavalent chromium at Qarmat Ali. The additional “bailout” agreement, which was demanded by KBR after initially grabbing the multi-billion dollar no-bid, cost-plus award fee contract for Iraqi oilfield reconstruction, purports to shield the company from various liabilities, including financial costs associated with unusually hazardous risks including
The Huffington Post published an article concerning the indemnity agreement between KBR and the government. KBR has sued the government for indemnity arising out of the $85 million verdict in favor of 12 soldiers exposed to sodium dichromate in Iraq while protecting KBR engineers repairing a water treatment facility.
The Huffington Post’s front page headline of “We Poison, You Pay” is a concise summary of KBR’s apparent legal position. And while KBR presses the government for indemnity, they seem to be unwilling to disclose the full terms of their indemnity sweetheart deal to the public. Beyond seeking indemnification for their liability to our soldiers, KBR is also demanding that the government pay their legal fees,which so far total more than $15 million.
The verdict involved a bellwether group of the first 12 of 162 soldiers we are proud to represent. With an average case award of over $7 million, KBR faces an exposure of over $1 billion for their misconduct in Iraq. Unfortunately, despite the verdict, and the public outcry as evidenced by the thousands of comments made in response to the Huffington Post article, KBR’s behavior seems to continue to worsen.
Click here to read the article in its entirety.
After several weeks of an informal, partial gag order entered at the request of KBR shortly before the verdict was delivered, we are now able to comment more fully on the verdict, the full facts of the case, and other developments in the fight for the Qarmat Ali veterans. As was widely reported, on November 2, 2012, an Oregon jury unanimously returned an $85 million verdict in favor of the plaintiffs in the first lawsuit for KBR’s misconduct at Qarmat Ali. This first trial pitted 12 US National Guard veterans against defense contractor KBR, and the twelve jurors not only found KBR liable for negligence in causing harm to these men, but also confirmed by “clear and convincing evidence” that KBR was guilty of “reckless and outrageous indifference to a highly unreasonable risk of harm and conscious indifference to the health, safety, and welfare” of our troops.
The facts of the trial were simple: KBR promised the Army’s Corp of Engineers it would repair a the Qarmat Ali water injection treatment plant in southern Iraq and that KBR’s “subject-matter expertise” would allow it to fully evaluate and safely repair the facility. Unfortunately, instead KBR knowingly exposed the military personnel providing security and the other personnel working at Qarmat Ali to massive levels of sodium dichromate present at the site after decades of use by the Iraqis as an anti-corrosive. The soldiers returned home to face medical issues ranging from respiratory dysfunction, persistent skin rashes, and even cancer. The commander of one of the National Guard units, Lt. Col. James Gentry of the Indiana National Guard, died of cancer attributed to the exposure in Iraq, and one of his men also died from lung disease attributed in part to his exposure at KBR’s Qarmat Ali project.
The damages received by the each of the 12 plaintiffs included actual damages of $850,000 and $6.25 million in punitive damages, totalling $85 million for