Burn Pit Cases: U.S. Supreme Court denies KBR’s request to consider contractual issues regarding liability


U.S. Supreme Court denies KBR’s request to consider contractual issues regarding liability

The U.S. Supreme Court announced on Jan. 20, 2015 that it will not hear the arguments of government contractor KBR regarding In re KBR Inc. Burn Pit Litigation. As a result, the MDL, which encompasses suits against KBR and other defense contractors who allegedly jeopardized the health and safety of American veterans, current service members and former contract employees by knowingly burning vast quantities of hazardous waste in open-air burn pits on U.S. military bases in Iraq and Afghanistan, may proceed forward in the District Court for the District of Maryland. Motley Rice LLC, along with co-counsel Susan Burke of Burke PLLC, represent hundreds of veterans and their families in this litigation.

KBR requested the Supreme Court’s intervention, claiming immunities and preemption under constitutional and statutory law because the company was contracted by the government to manage waste disposal at military bases in Iraq and Afghanistan.  Plaintiffs in the KBR, Inc., Burn Pit MDL allege that the defendants acted without authorization and allowed known carcinogens and other harmful substances to be released into the breathing air.  Items disposed of in burn pits may have included hazardous medical waste, hydraulic fluids, lithium batteries, tires, trucks and more.  Reported alleged side effects from burn pit exposure include: asthma; cancers (lung, brain, bone, skin); chronic bronchitis; chronic infections; chronic respiratory problems; and serious heart conditions. 

“It is a relief for many of our clients that the Supreme Court refused to hear KBR’s arguments,” stated Motley Rice co-founder Joe Rice and an attorney for the plaintiffs. “While the litigation will continue and is far from over, these veterans and contractors now have a chance to hold KBR accountable for its alleged irresponsibility on military bases and for endangering their health.  Our veterans as well as contractors assisting on bases returning home should not have to endure terrible negative health effects as a result of the time spent defending our freedom and the subsequent exposure to burn pits.”  

“The health issues veterans are suffering from are unfortunately increasing and are serious illnesses that are sometimes fatal,” stated Susan Burke of Burke PLLC, co-counsel attorney for the plaintiffs.  “We hope KBR can no longer dodge its alleged role in creating this deadly epidemic, and we will work to investigate and do our best to find some justices for our veterans and the affected contract workers.” 

On March 6, 2014, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit vacated the February 2013 dismissal by the U.S. District Court for the District of Maryland and remanded In re KBR Inc. Burn Pit Litigation to the district court for further proceedings. That decision led to the current effort by KBR to get Supreme Court review.  For more information about this litigation, including a timeline, visit Burn Pit Lawsuit.