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War contractor asks judge to pull name from soldiers’ suit

Associated Press

PORTLAND – Iraq war contractor Kellogg, Brown and Root has asked a federal judge in Portland to remove its name from an ongoing suit by 12 Oregon soldiers and replace it with a smaller subsidiary.

They note that KBR Inc. wasn’t formed until 2006, three years after the soldiers say the company knowingly exposed them to a carcinogen at a water treatment plant in southern Iraq.

The only proper defendant, the company argues, is the subsidiary.

KBR reported 2011 revenues of $9.3 billion. Revenues for the subsidiary, Kellogg Brown and Root Services, aren’t specified but would be smaller, the Oregonian reported.

The soldiers’ attorneys have rested their case. In testimony that began Oct. 10, the plaintiffs argued that KBR knew a critical southern Iraq oilfield plant was riddled with a well-known toxin but ignored the risk to soldiers while hurrying the project along, firing a whistle-blower and covering up the presence of the chemical when faced with exposure.

The soldiers say they suffer from respiratory ailments after their exposure. They are the first suit to go to trial in a case being watched nationally. Another suit from Oregon plaintiffs is on hold, as is a case from Texas soldiers, while the Portland trial plays out.

The defense has been calling medical experts to testify that the soldiers didn’t suffer harm from exposure to the carcinogen.

On Friday, testimony including a back-and-forth between Paolo Zannetti, of the EnviroComp Institute in California, and soldiers’ attorney Mike Doyle.

Zannetti said Friday the soldiers’ potential exposure to the carcinogen, hexavalent chromium, “is so much lower than the level of concern” that it seems clear they weren’t endangered.

Doyle questioned Zannetti about his consulting relationship with KBR, as well as his methodology in assessing soil samples.

The trial resumes on Monday, after U.S. District Court Judge Paul Papak decides whether to keep KBR Inc. as a plaintiff or replace them with the subsidiary.

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