Monday, May 20, 2013

EXCLUSIVE: Historic Case Against American Company That Allegedly Supplied Chemical Weapons to Iraq Slowed by Texas Judge

Saddam Hussein
Just got an exclusive update on the stunning legal case in Texas involving an Army physician who was evidently exposed to and harmed by chemical weapons during the Gulf War. His legal case against the American company that allegedly supplied this toxic mustard gas to Iraq during Saddam Hussein's reign, which I covered in March for The Daily Beast, was set to go to trial in just days. But a judge has ruled instead to send the case to the appeals courts, citing the "current bias against plaintiffs in the appellate courts in Texas."

The case, which was first filed way back in 1994, now moves to the Texas Court of Appeals, then the Texas Supreme Court. This could add another two to three years to the process.

Gary Pitts, attorney for defendant Victor Algaron, the Army field surgeon who suffered serious health issues as a result of his alleged exposure to mustard gas, was disappointed with the decision. But Pitts says the judge is fair and has no agenda here, he simply wants to seek assurances that this case will hold up in the Texas appeals courts.

Still, this must be frustrating for Pitts, who's spent the last 20 years researching just what companies in America and around the world supplied chemical weapons to Hussein. Pitts is determined to keep this case alive, and says Algaron is just one of many American Gulf War veteran plaintiffs that were exposed to chemical weapons in Iraq. 

Pitts says that at the time of Hussein's attack on the Kurds, Alcolac, Inc., a now-defunct Maryland company whose assets are owned by Paris-based chemical concern Rhodia, was, through a middleman, supplying Iraq with thiodiglycol (TDG), the chemical used to make mustard gas, a highly toxic agent used in the attack.

David Klucsik, a spokesman for Rhodia, told me back in March, “Alcolac did not supply thiodiglycol to Iraq. Not even the plaintiff [in the current court case] argues that Alcolac did so. Rather, plaintiff says that Alcolac sold TDG to an entity that then resold it to Iraq.”

Texas courts are notoriously conservative in cases involving personal injury, especially where there are a number of people involved. 

Regardless, says Pitts, "this case involves our war veterans and the ongoing threat to all of us of chemical weapons, and we're cautiously optimistic that the appellate courts will take a very hard look at the evidence in this case, and not come to the harsh result that Dr. Alarcon and the other veterans that can be proven to have mustard gas injuries cannot even have a trial on the matter with a jury in Texas," Pitts says.

Pitts adds that there is "plenty of evidence to have a trial and win this case with any jury in Texas."

Stay tuned to The Reno Dispatch for updates on this historic legal case, which, if ultimately successful, would mark the first time an American company was convicted for providing the Hussein regime with chemical weapons.

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