PORTLAND, Ore., Nov. 3 (UPI) -- A federal magistrate in Oregon has ordered defense contractor KBR to pay $85 million to National Guard soldiers exposed to a carcinogen while serving in Iraq.
KBR says it will appeal the verdict, which the soldiers' attorney said may have been the first of its kind against a contractor by a soldier, The (Portland) Oregonian reported.
Each of the 12 soldiers who filed the suit was awarded $850,000 in non-economic damages and $6.25 million in punitive damages in Friday's decision.
The soldiers charged in the suit that KBR was negligent in the way it handled sodium dichromate, an anti-corrosion agent that contains the known carcinogen hexavalent chromium, at a compound in Iraq in 2003.
The chemical was added to water that was pumped underground to push oil to the surface at the site managed by KBR. The soldiers claimed the substance was loose in the compound and contaminated areas outside the building where it was added to the water.
One soldier testified the chemical even coated his food.
KBR maintained it was unlikely any soldier was exposed to dangerously high levels of sodium dichromate.
The verdict represents only the end of phase one for KBR. Another 21 soldiers included as plaintiffs in the original filing are waiting their turn in court after the judge said the case was initially too large to handle at one time.