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Kristen Daum, Published November 11 2009

North Dakota soldiers join lawsuit against military contractors over toxic fumes

Three North Dakota soldiers have joined hundreds of Iraq and Afghanistan war veterans nationwide to sue U.S. military contractors for allegedly exposing them to toxic fumes while they were stationed overseas.

Patrick Cassidy of Fargo, William B. Dutton of Bismarck and Christopher M. Kozel of Minot filed the lawsuit Friday in Fargo’s U.S. District Court against Texas-based Halliburton Co. and KBR Inc., and other companies.

A Washington, D.C.-based law firm represents the three North Dakota men and more than 200 veterans nationwide in lawsuits pending in 37 states.

According to the complaint in Fargo’s federal court:

Halliburton, KBR and other companies named in the lawsuit were responsible for disposing vast quantities of waste on U.S. bases and camps in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The contractors did so using open-air burn pits with no safety controls, which created hazardous fumes that jeopardized the health of about 100,000 people since 2003.

The waste being dumped in the burn pits ranges from tires to human corpses.

Cassidy, Dutton and Kozel were stationed at Balad Air Force Base in Iraq for deployments occurring between April 2003 and December 2008.

Each man reportedly suffered from medical problems stemming from their exposure to the burn pits. Ailments included chronic joint pain, memory loss, migraines, skin rashes, open sores, pneumonia and lymphoma.

The men, like other veterans nationwide, seek monetary compensation for previous and future medical expenses and emotional distress.

They also ask for punitive damages based on the contractors’ “constant, wanton and outrageous misconduct and callous disregard and utter indifference” for the well-being of Americans serving and working in Iraq.

Other lawsuits nationwide, including one filed in Minnesota in May, have been merged for pretrial proceedings under U.S. District Judge Roger W. Titus in Greenbelt, Md.

Timothy M. O’Keeffe, the local attorney for the North Dakota soldiers, said he expects the North Dakota lawsuit to be transferred there as well.

KBR spokeswoman Heather Brown said the company denies the allegations and follows military regulations on the disposal of waste.

According to a summons issued Friday in Fargo’s U.S. District Court, Halliburton, KBR and the other companies named in the lawsuit have 20 days to respond to the allegations.


The Associated Press contributed to this report

Readers can reach Forum reporter Kristen Daum at (701) 241-5541

Copyright © 2009 The Forum. All rights reserved. AP contributed to this report.