Defense contractor Kellogg Brown & Root Services alleges in a new lawsuit that the U.S. government is unfairly withholding contract records that the company says it needs to challenge tort allegations tied to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
According to the National Law Journal, the complaint seeks records that include:
- Documents that refer to “punishing, penalizing, taking punitive action, reprimanding, taking remedial action, or taking any adverse action against KBR related to the performance of electrical services under the LOGCAP III Contract.”
- Documents that “refer to a policy or position taken by the United States (including by the Department of Defense and/or the Army) pursuant to which a neutral position is taken with regard to any lawsuit(s) brought by U.S. servicemen against private contractors.”
- Documents that “refer to any electrical accident, electrocution injury, or fatal electrocution that occurred in Iraq,” including any records that refer to the 2008 electrocution of Staff Sergeant Ryan Maseth.
Staff Sergeant Ryan Maseth, a Special Forces soldier, died from cardiac arrest due to an apparent accidental electrical shock while deployed to Iraq. Reports indicated that the water pump in the bathroom was not properly grounded, and when Maseth turned on the shower, a jolt of electricity shot through his body and electrocuted him.
Army documents obtained by CNN in May 2008 show that Kellogg, Brown and Root inspected the building and found serious electrical problems a full 11 months before Maseth was electrocuted.
KBR noted "several safety issues concerning the improper grounding of electrical devices." But KBR's contract did not cover "fixing potential hazards." It covered repairing items only after they broke down. Only after Maseth died did the Army issue an emergency order for KBR to finally fix the electrical problems, and that order was carried out soon thereafter, CNN reported.
In an internal e-mail obtained by CNN, a Navy captain admits that the Army should have known "the extent of the severity of the electrical problems." The e-mail then says the reason the Army did not know was because KBR's inspections were never reviewed by a "qualified government employee."
The parents of Maseth had filed a lawsuit, alleging a KBR unit was legally responsible for what it says was shoddy electrical work common in Iraqi-built structures taken over by the U.S. military. KBR disputes the claim. Just this past January, the Supreme Court rejected three appeals by the military contractor seeking to stop the case and other lawsuits from going forward.