MONTGOMERY, Ala. (March 28) — A federal appeals court has affirmed a $20.7 million verdict in a pollution case involving the emission of carbon black from a Continental Carbon Co. carbon black plant in Alabama.
The original suit, filed in August 2001, alleged air emissions of carbon black from Continental Carbon's Phenix City, Ala., facility damaged property in the Columbus, Ga., vicinity owned by the city and private individuals. Columbus is located directly across the Chattahoochee River from Phenix City.
After a 10-day trial, a jury on Aug. 25, 2004, awarded a total of $20.7 million to the plaintiffs — $1.915 million in compensatory damages, $1.294 million for attorney's fees and expenses and $17.5 million in punitive damages.
Continental Carbon, along with its Taiwan-based parent, China Synthetic Rubber Corp., appealed the decision on several issues, including whether the punitive damages award was excessive; whether there was sufficient evidence in the trial to reasonably infer carbon black caused alleged discoloration damage; or whether the compensatory damages awarded to Action Marine Inc., a commercial plaintiff in the case, were improper.
But the three-judge appellate panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals, 11th Circuit, on March 21 upheld the trial court decision and refused to reduce the monetary awards. The court concluded, in its decision, that "Continental's actions and inaction were exceedingly reprehensible."