SANTA CLARA, Calif. -- After less than two days of deliberations, a jury of eleven women and one man returned a unanimous decision in favor of IBM Corp. in a four-month long civil suit about toxic chemical exposure.
Two former IBM hard drive workers alleged they got systemic chemical poisoning from toxic chemicals at IBM's Cottle Road plant in San Jose during the period from 1960-1980. They claimed IBM knew about the poisoning, hid details of it and let their injuries worsen and cause cancers.
The jury was asked to answer six questions relating to the allegations in Santa Clara Superior Court here. All twelve jurors answered no to the very first qurestion of whether Alida Hernandez and James Moore had sustained chemical poisoning.
After answering no to the first question, jurors were not required to answer subsequent questions on the verdict form. Only nine of the twelve jurors needed to agree to render a decision in favor of IBM.
The decision marks a blow to the Alexander, Hawes and Audet law firm that tried to establish, among other issues, a diagnosis of systemic chemical poisoning due to repeated exposure to relatively low amounts of chemicals including acetone, isopropyl alcohol, epoxy resins and mixtures of those and other chemicals over an extended period of time.
Plaintiffs had presented experts in toxicology and occupational medicine to try to establish their claims of chemical poisoning. IBM presented its own experts who refute the diagnosis.
"We were handcuffed in presenting evidence because California law does not protect workers working with carcinogens," said plaintiff's attorney Richard Alexander, who said the firm is looking forward to trying the next case starting March 2nd in New York.
In that case in Westchester County, NY a former IBM worker alleges chemicals caused birth defects in her daughter. Plaintiffs will be able to present a wider set of evidence in the New York case, according to attorney Alexander.
The California case was based on an exception to California labor code that allows employees to bring civil suit when an employer knowingly aggrevates a workplace injury and hides knowledge of what it is doing.