Chemical Plant Wins Retrial

Nov. 26, 1999
Jury rules in favor of chemical company at retrial.

FMC Corp., a chemical company based in Chicago, that was once ordered to pay $38.8 million in damages over a 1995 leak won a retrial on Monday.

A federal jury ruled in favor of FMC, which last year lost a class-action lawsuit but was granted a new trial based on new evidence regarding the direction of the wind on the day of the leak.

The second verdict came after just 40 minutes of deliberations.

"Either they didn't follow the court's instructions and they discussed the case before closing arguments and all the evidence was in, or they simply didn't deliberate and wanted to get out of there," said former state Supreme Court Justice Richard Neely, who filed the lawsuit.

The suit was filed on behalf of 353 people alleging they were injured by a leak of 6,000 pounds of phosphorous trichloride from an FMC chemical plant about 15 miles west of Charleston, in an area known as Chemical Valley.

The leak forced thousands of residents indoors and led officials to close several highways. Evidence indicated faulty equipment in a reactor contributed to the leak of phosphorous trichloride, which combined with rain that day to form hydrochloric acid.

FMC spokesman Tom Kline said the Chicago-based company "believed all along that the facts of the case ran counter to the original lawsuit."

Neely said he may appeal the jury's decision.

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