PORTLAND, Ore. (CN) - A group of Oregon National Guard members who say KBR exposed them to toxic sodium dichromate at an Iraqi water-treatment plant are on the hook for part of the defense contractor's legal fees, a federal judge ruled.
KBR, a former Halliburton subsidiary, contracted with the U.S. government after the Iraq war to rebuild the country's infrastructure.
Thirty-nine members of the Oregon National Guard said they were exposed to carcinogenic sodium dichromate while providing security for civilians who were working on the Qarmat Ali water-treatment plant in 2003.
Sodium dichromate is used as an anticorrosive that contains hexavalent chromium, a known carcinogen.
"Among its known and documented health effects are asthma, dermatitis, nasal perforation, skin ulcerations, and lung cancer," the complaint says.
The plaintiffs say they began experiencing nosebleeds, "the most characteristic symptom of acute hexavalent chromium poisoning," which toxicologists call "chrome nose."
KBR managers allegedly told soldiers that the nosebleeds were from "the dry desert air" and that they were "allergic to sand."
The plaintiffs' complaint, which was amended five times, claims KBR is withholding its knowledge of the chemical dangers of the water plant.
KBR moved to impose sanctions on the plantiffs' expert, Dr. Arch Carson, for a November 2011 report he filed to supplement one submitted five months prior.
U.S. Magistrate Judge Paul Papak agreed Friday that sanctions are in order.
"Because plaintiffs have not met their burden to respond to defendants' arguments with evidence establishing that the specific, detailed causation opinions contained in the November report could not have issued in the absence of information that only became available to plaintiffs after the expiration of the expert disclosure deadline, I conclude that Carson's November report was untimely provided to defendants," Papak wrote.
Though he concluded that KBR was prejudiced by the untimely report, the judge found the report should still be included at trial because its exclusion "would be a disproportionate response to the report's untimeliness."
The plaintiffs must pay KBR for any fees and costs borne from the untimely report.
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