Thursday, March 30, 2017

Burn Pit Lawsuit: Court Holds Evidentiary Hearing On Jurisdictional Issues

The Court held a 3-day evidentiary hearing on March 9, 10 and 13, 2017 in the Burn Pit Litigation. The lawsuit was brought by veterans, private military contractor employees and civilian government employees, who allege toxic exposure in Iraq and Afghanistan. 

The Court heard the live testimony of witnesses and evidence was submitted by the parties to the case on the issue as to whether the Court has subject-matter jurisdiction to hear the lawsuit. 

Prior to the hearing, the judge had ordered that the depositions of multiple witnesses be conducted and that extensive documentary records be produced including electronically data.

At the conclusion of the hearing, the Court indicated that a written opinion would be forthcoming.

The Second Case Management Order, entered earlier, directed that the parties (Service members and KBR) and the United States Government, to exchange information so that the Court may make a determination as to whether it has jurisdiction to hear the case against Kellogg Brown and Root (KBR) for alleged negligence involving Iraq and Afghanistan burn pit sites.

The Court has directed that KBR and the United States Government identify what bases KBR was involved with in Iraq and Afghanistan. Testimony, written and electronic documentary evidence, and photographs will be reviewed to determine the level and extent of KBR's roll, if any, in the operation of the burn pits in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The cases have been brought by: veterans, private military contractor employees and civilian government employees, who were exposed in Iraq and Afghanistan. The action is against KBR for damages "caused [by] harm through the negligent use of burn pits and improper water treatment."

The case is a consolidated Multidistrict Litigation (MDL) matter that consists of multiple individual cases. KBR was hired by the United States to provide logistical support for the military during the Iraq and Afghanistan conflicts.
The Court has directed that the exchange of information focus only on:
"1. The degree to which the military controlled KBR's performance of the contracts, and   2. The degree to which KBR was integrated into the military command."
The exposed individuals and their families brought a lawsuit against KBR for its allegedly improper use of the burn pits and for failing to warn veterans and civilians of the hazards of being exposed.

The cases allege that prolonged exposure to the burn pits' smoke, ash and fumes, and improper water treatment, may have resulted in chronic diseases, the risk of future illness and death. The lawsuit alleges that KBR burned large amounts of unsorted waste, including hazardous waste, medical waste, and human waste, at military facilities in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The case, In re KBR Inc, Burn Pit Litigation, is a consolidated action and is venued in U.S. District Court for the District of Maryland, Greenbelt Division, before Judge Roger W. Titus.