United States Supreme Court refuses to hear appeal of $20M pollution verdict

posted on:
July 28, 2008

author:
David Byrne

category:
Environmental

On Friday, June 27th, the United States Supreme Court issued an order rejecting all further appeals of the $20,709,000 pollution verdict entered against the Continental Carbon plant in Phenix City, Alabama, and against its parent company, China Synthetic Rubber Corporation of Taiwan.

In August of 2004, a federal jury in Opelika, Alabama, awarded the City of Columbus, local boat dealer, John Tharpe, and South Columbus resident, Owen Ditchfield, $1.9 million in compensatory damages and $17.5 million in punitive damages for the carbon black pollution that the Continental Carbon plant repeatedly released onto their property. Over the course of that two-week trial, the jury received evidence that, according to presiding United States District Judge Mark E. Fuller, demonstrated that the defendants engaged in a “pattern of intentional misconduct….leading to repeated damage to the Plaintiffs’ properties.” Following the trial, the defendant corporations filed numerous appeals of the jury’s verdict; all of which were rejected by the federal appeals courts. Now, with this latest ruling by the United States Supreme Court, it appears that the nearly 4-year effort by Continental Carbon and China Synthetic to overturn the jury’s verdict has finally come to an end.

The Plaintiffs were represented in this case by the Beasley Allen firm of Montgomery, Alabama; Friedman, Leak, Dazzio, Zulanas & Bowling (Birmingham, Alabama); and Jackson, Fikes, Hood & Brakefield (Jasper, Alabama).

Commenting on the decision, plaintiff attorney Jere Beasley said; “We are extremely pleased with the United States Supreme Court’s decision today to reject all further appeals by these defendants.” “By allowing these verdicts to stand, said Beasley; “the Court sent a very clear message that simply compensating our clients for their out-of-pocket losses wasn’t enough; these two corporations needed to pay 9 times that amount in punitive damages to deter this sort of misconduct in the future.”

In addition, Beasley said; “the Court’s decision confirms what the City of Columbus, Action Marine, and Owen Ditchfield have said since the beginning of this case 7-years ago; namely, that the carbon black pollution that the defendants’ Phenix City plant released into South Columbus for years was wrong and shouldn’t be tolerated.” More importantly, Beasley said; “this decision should serve as a warning to corporations like Continental Carbon and China Synthetic Rubber that they cannot recklessly disregard the rights and safety of their neighbors and expect to get away with it.”

Beasley also singled out the Plaintiffs for special praise saying; “the Mayor, the Columbus City Council, Owen Ditchfield and John Tharpe, should all be commended for taking a stand in this case and for supporting the rights of their fellow citizens in South Columbus.” “Despite the defendants’ efforts to conceal and downplay their misconduct in this matter, our clients never gave up and never stopped pursuing the justice that they were entitled to.”

While Beasley said that he hopes the defendants will learn from their past mistakes and avoid carbon black emissions in the future, “the Beasley Allen firm and its co-counsel are prepared to take up this fight again if the companies fail to act properly.”

For additional background information or comments, please feel free to contact David Byrne at 1(800) 898-2043.

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