Iraq chemical win for US troops gives hope to ex-Sergeant
A former RAF Sergeant who was allegedly exposed to a poisonous chemical in Iraq, believes his legal battle for compensation may be drawing to a close following a landmark US court ruling.
Andy Tosh, 47, from Bracebridge Heath, claims he was poisoned with hexavalent chromium – the chemical highlighted in the hit Julia Roberts film Erin Brockovich – after was exposed to sodium dichromate at the Qarmat Ali water plant in 2003.
Mr Tosh and his team guarded the facility, run by American defence giant KBR, between May and October 2003 when they noticed the sodium dichromate powder – an anti-rust agent – in bags, in drains and on the ground.
He broke out in rashes, as did colleagues who also suffered nosebleeds and breathing problems. Mr Tosh now suffers from respiratory disease.
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More than 150 US servicemen who were at the plant have made a legal claim against KBR, as well as Mr Tosh and 12 other RAF personnel.
A court in Oregon, USA, has now ordered KBR to pay 12 US troops $6.25 million each in damages. The dozen were selected by the law firm which is representing them for the "bellwether" case, because they were typical examples of the former service personnel who are making claims.
Mr Tosh, who left 26 Squadron RAF Regiment in 2006 and has a 15-year-old son, Ryan, said: "The outcome of the Oregon case very much gives me cause for optimism – it's a landmark legal victory.
"I have ongoing health problems including upper and lower respiratory disease.
"There have been people that have died because of exposure to toxic chemicals at that site.
"KBR have been found guilty of putting people at risk and finally we may get justice and the truth coming out.
"It's not about the money. It's more about ensuring a duty of care.
"You join the military to fight overseas for your country then discover a friendly contractor has hidden something.
"I first noticed something was wrong in Iraq in the August when I broke out in a severe rash on my forearms – others had nosebleeds.
"A week later KBR staff turned up in protective suits with respirators and masks and started hammering in signs with skull and cross bones on them."
Mr Tosh's American lawyer Michael Doyle said: "The Oregon federal court verdict last November, with judgment approved and entered by the judge in May, was for the "bellwether" trial of 12 plaintiffs selected as exemplars for other Oregon National Guard plaintiffs.
"This hopefully points to a positive outcome for Mr Tosh and others.
"As outlined in the Oregon judgment, KBR was found guilty by clear and convincing evidence of causing knowing exposure of the military and others at their work site."
KBR Infrastructure, Government and Power president Mark S. Williams has previously said KBR is proud of its work in Iraq.
"The company also remains committed to conducting its business with transparency and integrity," he added.