High court rejects military contractors appeals

AP News
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Posted: Jan 20, 2015 10:19 AM

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Supreme Court on Tuesday turned away three appeals from military contractor KBR Inc. that seek to shut down lawsuits over a soldier's electrocution in Iraq and open-air burn pits in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The justices offered no comment in allowing the lawsuits to proceed.

One lawsuit was filed by the parents of Staff Sgt. Ryan Maseth, who was electrocuted in his barracks shower at an Army base in Iraq in 2008. The suit claims KBR unit Kellogg Brown & Root Services Inc. was legally responsible for the shoddy electrical work that was common in Iraqi-built structures taken over by the U.S. military. KBR disputes that claim.

Dozens of lawsuits by soldiers and others assert they were harmed by improper waste disposal while serving in Iraq and Afghanistan. They seek to hold KBR and Halliburton Co. responsible for exposing soldiers to toxic emissions and contaminated water when they burned waste in open pits without proper safety controls.

The contractors say they cannot be sued because they essentially were operating in war zones as an extension of the military.

The Obama administration agreed with the contractors that lower courts should have dismissed the lawsuits, but said the Supreme Court should not get involved now because lower courts still could dismiss or narrow the claims.