Yesterday, Mike Doyle and I appeared in U.S. District Court here in Oregon to argue against dismissal of 26 Oregon National Guard soldiers’ toxic exposure claims against Kellogg Brown and Root.
Judge Papak heard oral argument for close to an hour and half. As always, he was well prepared with tough questions for both sides. Oral argument in his courtroom isn’t so much about arguing the motions as answering his questions. He really knows how to push and challenge both sides. I have to say that I welcome the challenge of stepping into his courtroom.
KBR claims that it is entitled to a dismissal because: 1) The political question doctrine prevents the court from reviewing the actions of the contractor; 2) KBR, as a government contractor, is immune from claims due to derivative sovereign immunity; and 3) KBR is immune because of the combatant activities exception to the Federal Tort Claims Act.
The soldiers made extensive arguments on all three motions. To prepare the briefs, we reviewed approximately 50,000 pages of documents and took depositions of Army and KBR witnesses in Houston, Dallas and St. Louis. The briefing is voluminous. The issues are complicated. But it seems to come down to KBR claiming that even though it was paid $7 billion on a secret, no bid, cost plus contract, its conduct falls outside the review of our justice system.
We’re waiting for Judge Papak’s ruling on these motions. The case is on hold until he issues his decision.