San Marcos Mercury | Local News from San Marcos and Hays County, Texas
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June 8th, 2009
Local man plaintiff in lawsuit against KBR

by BRAD ROLLINS
Managing Editor

A man with Hays County ties is one of six plaintiffs in a lawsuit against KBR alleging the war-zone contractor exposed troops to toxins and emissions from burn pits at U.S. military bases.

Robert Cain, who the suit says was stationed at Balad Air Force Base and Camp Anaconda in Iraq, “was exposed to toxic emissions from the burn pit [and] has developed a respiratory condition that continues to present and limits his military career,” the suit states. Pending in a San Antonio federal court, the lawsuit says the plaintiffs suffered maladies ranging from vision loss to abdominal pain to a football-sized tumor removed from the hip of David McMenomy of Lampasas.

Cain’s father, Russell Cain, lives between San Marcos and Wimberley off Ranch Road 12. Russell Cain said by telephone last week that neither he nor his son have a comment because the lawsuit is pending.

Claiming negligence, battery, breach of contract and other offenses, the lawsuit seeks compensation for medical expenses and punitive damages “in an amount sufficient to strip defendants of all of the revenue and profits earned from their pattern of constant, wanton and outrageous misconduct and callous disregard and utter indifference to the welfare of Americans serving and working in Iraq.

As part of its contracts with the federal government, the lawsuit states, KBR “promised to dispose of all waste in a method designed to minimize safety risks, to minimize environmental effects of any burn site they operated and to minimize any type of smoke exposure to people in and near the camp,” the lawsuit states. “The defendants utterly failed to fulfill any of the promises they made.”

The Texas lawsuit is one of 34 filed in 34 states, plaintiff’s attorney Elizabeth Burke of Washington-based Burke O’Neill LLC said, as the first steps in building a class action against the Houston-based company. Halliburton, KBR’s parent company until 2006, is also named as a defendant.

In a statement released to The Mercury, KBR spokesperson Heather L. Browne said, “KBR is still reviewing the recently filed suits. It should be noted though that KBR did not operate the burn pit at Balad in Iraq , as has been previously asserted. It should also be noted that any burn pit operated in Iraq or Afghanistan is done pursuant to Army guidelines and regulations. The general assertion that KBR knowingly harmed troops is unfounded as the safety and security of all KBR employees and those the company serves remains our top priority.”

In April, Hays County commissioners withdrew a $600,000-plus contract award to engineer part of Farm-to-Market Road 110 connecting Interstate 35 to Texas 123 after local veterans protested KBR’s involvement.

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