The Continental Carbon Co. today filed a petition asking the 11th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals to rehear its decision in March that upheld a $17.5 million punitive damage award against the Phoenix City carbon black plant and its parent company, China Synthetic Rubber Corp.

The company was hit in August 2004 with a U.S. District Court jury verdict in Opelika awarding more than $3 million in compensatory damages and litigation costs, plus $17.5 million in punitive damages, after finding that pollutants from its plant near the Chattahoochee Ricer had damaged a south Columbus home, a business and the Columbus Civic Center and other facilities at South Commons.

Continental Carbon’s appeal of the verdicts was hard by a three-judge panel of the 11th Circuit in Atlanta. The panel’s opinion on March 22 affirmed all aspects of the District Court case, including the punitive damages found by the jury, and labeled the company’s actions and inactions “exceedingly reprehensible.”

The petition for rehearing seeks to have the case heard again, this time by the full bench of the appellate court.

The company’s request argues that the three-judge panel accepted the plaintiffs’ claims even though scientific tests by independent laboratories disputed the degree of damage. It also argues the disproportionately high amount of punitive damages, compared to the actual damages found, is excessive when compared to other cases involving more extreme conduct with more serious damages.

Read more about the company’s petition later today online and in Thursday’s Ledger-Enquirer print editions.

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