PORTLAND -- A jury has ordered an American military contractor to pay $85 million after finding it guilty of negligence for illnesses suffered by a dozen Oregon soldiers who guarded an oilfield water plant during the Iraq war.
"What happened today is a little bit of justice," said one of the soldiers, Jason Arnold. "The torch needs to go further and blaze hotter."
The jury deliberated for just two days before reaching a decision Friday against Kellogg Brown and Root. The company was ordered to pay $6.25 million to each of the soldiers in punitive damages and $850,000 in noneconomic damages.
"This is never about money," said Arnold. "We still have men and women in Afghanistan and they're fighting hard and shedding blood and there needs to be more oversight of these corporations making profits."
The suit was the first concerning soldiers' exposure to a toxin at a water plant in southern Iraq that they were assigned to guard.
The soldiers said they suffer from respiratory ailments after their exposure to sodium dichromate, and they fear that a carcinogen the toxin contains -- hexavalent chromium -- could cause cancer later in life.
"I represented these men through thick and thin," said attorney David Sugerman. "They went to trial and they are heroic."