20 January 2015, News Wires – The US Supreme Court has allowed lawsuits to move forward against government contractors in Iraq and Afghanistan by declining to hear appeals filed by KBR and Halliburton.
The high court left intact appeals court rulings against the two companies in three different cases, Reuters reported.
One lawsuit was brought by the family of US Staff Sergeant Ryan Maseth, who died in 2008 after being electrocuted in his barracks in Iraq. The family says KBR was negligent in servicing the barracks plumbing.
The second case centred on accusations that the two companies harmed thousands of service members and contractor employees in Iraq and Afghanistan by burning hazardous waste, including asbestos and human remains, in open-air pits. The alleged victims say in 58 consolidated suits that they were exposed to toxic smoke and contaminated water, according to Bloomberg.
The third case involves allegations that KBR was to blame for soldiers’ exposure to a potentially dangerous chemical, sodium dichromate, while repairing the Qarmat Ali water treatment facility in southern Iraq.
There are a series of cases against private contractors concerning their liability for actions that took place in Iraq and Afghanistan. Plaintiffs sue companies because the US military generally cannot be sued over such issues. Courts have struggled over whether to allow the lawsuits to proceed.
KBR was part of Halliburton until it was spun off in 2007. The plaintiffs say they were injured because the companies did not follow correct procedures.
Both companies say they should not be liable, in part due to their unique role as contractors for the military in sensitive situations overseas.
The cases are KBR v. Harris, KBR v. Metzgar and KBR v. McManaway US Supreme Court, No. 13-817, No. 13-1241 and No. 14-105.