Halliburton, KBR Ordered by Judge to Face Military Suits Over Pit Burning

Halliburton Co. and KBR Inc. must face lawsuits brought by military personnel and contractors allegedly harmed by contaminated water and toxic emissions from burning waste in Iraq and Afghanistan, a judge said.

U.S. District Judge Roger Titus in Greenbelt, Maryland, who is overseeing 43 lawsuits on the matter, yesterday rejected the companies’ claims of immunity for combat-related activities, saying he was concerned it would limit legal remedies for people who allege they were injured.

“Courts must be prepared to adjudicate cases that ultimately expose defense contractors to appropriate liability,” Titus wrote. The judge said he favored a “limited” pre-trial exchange of information in the case, to avoid burdening the military and its personnel in wartime.

Plaintiffs claim the Houston-based companies ignored the terms of contracts with the U.S. that required safe and environmentally sound waste disposal for troops. Improper disposal of waste in “burn pits” led to injuries including cancer and respiratory illness, law firms Motley Rice LLC and Burke PLLC said today in a statement.

“KBR is confident that the evidence will confirm that it performed waste disposal and water services pursuant to military direction and guidelines,” KBR said in a statement.

Teresa Wong, a spokeswoman for Halliburton, didn’t have an immediate comment.

The case is In Re KBR Inc., Burn Pit Litigation, 09MD2083, U.S. District Court for Maryland (Greenbelt).

To contact the reporter on this story: William McQuillen in Washington at bmcquillen@bloomberg.net.

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