IBM not guilty of knowingly poisoning workers

Unanimous verdict

IBM has prevailed against allegations that it wilfully hid the risk of chemical poisoning from workers at one of its hard drive factories.

The Supreme Court of Santa Clara yesterday heard the jury unanimously rule in the computer giant's favour.

The four-month trial centred on claims made by Alida Hernandez and James Moore that they been systematically poisoned during the time they worked at IBM's Cottle Road plant in San Jose, and that the company knew that this would happen but did nothing to warn them. Both plaintiffs are cancer sufferers, and alleged that their tumours were a direct result of their work at the plant, between 1960 and 1980.

Hernandez and Moore's lawyers argued that the repeated exposure to relatively low doses of acetone, isopropyl alcohol, epoxy resins and other chemicals amounted to systematic poisoning.

However, the 11-woman and one-man jury disagreed: the plaintiffs had not suffered chemical poisoning, they said.

By reaching such a verdict, the jury did not have to pronounce on five other questions that devolved from that point.

It is not clear whether the plaintiffs will appeal against the verdict. However, their legal representation, from law firm the Alexander, Hawes & Audet, said they will now move on to a second case, to be heard in New York State next Tuesday, in which another ex-IBMer is claiming chemical exposure led to birth defects in her daughter. ®