Burn Pit Exposure
We steadfastly believe that dedicating your life to your country doesn’t mean that your life should be put at completely at unnecessary risk, and that is what we alleged happened to U.S. military service members, veterans and civilian contractors when open-air burn pits were maintained on or near American military bases in Iraq and Afghanistan.
On Jan. 14, 2019, the U.S. Supreme Court denied our appeal in the burn pit litigation. This means, regrettably, that the litigation has reached the end in terms of being able to hold KBR accountable in a court of law for the damages and harm we believe they caused our veterans.
If you were exposed to an open-air burn pit while serving overseas, please consider documenting your experience by signing up for the VA’s Airborne Hazards and Open Burn Pit Registry. Doing so contributes to research on the dangers of toxic burn pits, helping to improve conditions for service members and contractors. The registry contained 187,630 veterans and service members as of Oct. 15, 2019. Registering is free of charge and may be completed online. Learn more about the Airborne Hazards and Open Burn Pit Registry.
While Motley Rice is no longer accepting cases related to burn pit exposure, we encourage anyone affected to learn more about the legislative and other advocacy efforts that are ongoing related to this issue. At this time, the exclusive remedy for those who have been injured remains through the Veterans Administration for veterans injured through their service and through the Defense Base Act for contractor personnel. While we do not practice in those areas of law, your local state bar association is one resource you can use to find lawyers who can assist on those types of claims.
We are deeply disappointed in this result and the fact that the current law does not allow us to hold a government contractor accountable for this type of action, our gratitude and honor goes to you – the brave men and women who have been seemingly harmed by exposure to burn pits in defending our country and freedoms.
“For nearly a decade, we have been working in the court system to secure justice for our veterans who have come home and suffered from debilitating diseases as a result of their exposure to burn pits in Iraq and Afghanistan. As we alleged in our complaint, we believe over and over, KBR, a military contractor with the duty to handle waste on bases, did not do so with care. KBR operated burn pits that burned everything from plastics and human waste to car parts. We were honored to represent our veterans and are disappointed that the Supreme Court declined to hear this case.” Motley Rice attorneys Fred Baker and James Ledlie, with co-counsel Susan Burke.
Latest Legislative Efforts
Multiple pieces of legislation, including the Burn Pits Accountability Act (S. 191), have been introduced in an attempt to establish a solution for injured service members who developed diseases after being exposed to toxic burn pits. If signed into law, the Burn Pits Accountability Act would:
- Ensure that service members are evaluated for toxic exposure during regular medical exams.
- Enroll service members who were exposed in the Airborne Hazards and Open Burn Pit Registry, unless the person elects not to be included.
Additional pieces of legislation currently being considered by Congress include the Family Member Access to Burn Pits Registry Act of 2019 (H.R.1001), which would allow family members of deceased service members to participate in the registry on their behalf, and the Burn Pits Veterans Revision Act of 2019 (H.R. 1005), which would require the VA to establish a diagnostic code and evaluation criteria for obliterative bronchiolitis. The House also voted 416-0 to strengthen the burn pit registry by approving the Burn Pit Registry Enhancement Act (H.R. 1381).
Related Burn Pit Legislation News
Vermont National Guard (October 23, 2019) - Brig. Gen. Knight Open Burn Pit Registration
Post and Courier (October 26, 2019) - Nearly 4,000 SC veterans claim to be affected by burning trash pits during post-9/11 wars
Military.com (August 23, 2019) - After Mandate from Congress, VA Opens Research Center for Burn Pit-Related Illnesses
CBS News (August 17, 2019) - Thousands of veterans fear "burn pits" exposed them to lethal disease
Stars and Stripes (April 30, 2019) - Lawmakers, advocates urge help for servicemembers sickened by burn pits
Stars and Stripes (March 7, 2019): House bill strengthens burn pit registry
Dayton Daily News (March 1, 2019): Congressional action urged for veterans harmed by burn pits
Military Times (Feb. 26, 2019): Vets groups vow to pressure Congress into following through on hard-won legislation
Texas Public Radio (Feb. 22, 2019): Vets, Activists Discuss New Burn Pit Legislation With U.S. Rep. Castro
Burn Pit Exposure Symptoms
Exposure to harmful toxins in Iraq and Afghanistan may result in diagnoses and symptoms, including:
- Allergy-like symptoms
- Breathing restrictions
- Cancers (including but not limited to lung, brain, bone and skin)
- Chronic bronchitis
- Chronic coughs
- Constant infections
- Cramps and severe abdominal pain
- Lung cancer
- Nose bleeds
- Pulmonary injuries
- Restrictive Airways Disease (Bronchiolitis)
- Serious heart conditions
- Severe headache
- Skin infection
- Sleep apnea
- Throat infections
- Unexpected weight loss
- Weeping lesions on extremities
*Note: this list is not inclusive of all potential symptoms or illnesses
A Brief History of Burn Pit Litigation
In 2010, the case Jobes v KBR, Inc. et al alleged that prolonged exposure to burn pits’ smoke, ash and fumes caused injuries such as chronic illnesses, risk of illnesses and wrongful death. The veterans and contract workers bringing the suit claimed that the contractors responsible for these open-air burn pits had a duty to warn them of the health and safety issues involved with working near the pits, but failed to do so. These lawsuits were consolidated in In re KBR Inc. Burn Pit Litigation before the Honorable Judge Roger W. Titus in the U.S. District Court for the District of Maryland, Greenbelt Division.
This consolidation of lawsuits alleged that KBR, a government contractor, exposed American servicemembers and civilian contract workers to harmful fumes from its unauthorized use of open-air surface burning as a means to dispose of vast quantities of unsorted waste, including hazardous waste, medical waste, and human waste, at military facilities in Iraq and Afghanistan. Exposure to harmful fumes from these burn pits was alleged to have caused these American servicemembers and civilian contract workers to suffer various serious injuries. The burn pits addressed in the KBR lawsuits varied in size and location.
U.S. Supreme Court denies certiorari review of plaintiffs’ appeal in the burn pit litigation. Read the order.
Plaintiffs filed a petition for writ of certiorari, requesting the U.S. Supreme Court to hear the case. Read more.
U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit denies request for a hearing en banc (full review of the court). Read the order.
U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit denies request to allow claims to proceed in In re: KBR, Inc. Burn Pit Litigation MDL. Read the order.
U.S. District Court Judge Roger W. Titus for the District of Maryland dismissed the burn pit lawsuits consolidated in In re: KBR, Inc. Burn Pit Litigation MDL.
The U.S. Supreme Court turned down an interlocutory request by KBR to review the continuation of plaintiffs’ claims in the In re: KBR, Inc. Burn Pit Litigation MDL case.
The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit vacates the district court’s decision and remands the In re: KBR, Inc. Burn Pit Litigation back to the district court for further proceedings.
The U.S. District Court for the District of Maryland dismisses the burn pit lawsuits consolidated in the In re: KBR, Inc. Burn Pit Litigation MDL.
Burn pit lawsuits across the country are consolidated in In re KBR Inc. Burn Pit Litigation MDL, and a motion by the defendants to dismiss for lack of subject matter jurisdiction is denied by the U.S. District Court for the District of Maryland.
Burn Pit Resources
The following links may be useful to those interested in learning more about burn pits and the burn pit litigation:
- Motley Rice Burn Pit Client Website (Extranet)
- American Association for Justice Report (May 2018): Fighting for Those who Fight for Us: Protecting the Rights of Servicemembers and Veterans
- Burn Pits 360
- Burn Pits 360 Facebook page
- Burn Pits Action Center
- Burn Pit Facebook page
- CNN Burn Pit Segment
- Congressional Hearing on Burn Pits
- Disabled American Veterans: Stand Up for Veterans
- Gulf War Chemicals
- Helping Veterans Exposed to Toxic Chemicals Act (H.R. 2510)
- Institute of Medicine Burn Pit Investigation: Long-Term Health Consequences of Exposure to Burn Pits in Iraq and Afghanistan
- Burn Pit Registry Enhancement Act (H.R. 1381)
- Family Member Access to Burn Pits Registry Act of 2019 (H.R.1001)
- Burn Pits Veterans Revision Act of 2019 (H.R. 1005)
- Burn Pits Accountability Act (S. 191)
These resources are not meant to serve as legal advice and are not intended to foster an attorney-client relationship. They are strictly for convenience.