The Taipei District Court yesterday ordered Radio Corp of America (RCA) and its affiliates to pay NT$2.3 billion (US$76.15 million) to 1,120 former employees and family members over exposure to toxic materials.
The ruling, which could still be appealed, follows a separate judgement last year by the Supreme Court, which upheld a previous order for General Electric (GE) and Thomson Consumer Electronics (TCE) to pay 262 former employees and affected family members NT$564.45 million.
The plaintiffs in yesterday’s ruling were not a part of that lawsuit, choosing instead to file their own complaint.
Photo: Huang Chieh, Taipei Times
Earlier rulings on the matter found that RCA was liable for the cancer and illnesses its employees contracted while handling solvents that were later determined to be carcinogenic at an RCA factory in then-Taoyuan County.
Investigators also found that toxic waste was dumped around the factory, contaminating soil and groundwater.
Former employees said that more than 200 people have died due to exposure to toxic chemicals.
RCA, which operated in Taoyuan, Hsinchu and Yilan counties from 1970 to 1992, employed tens of thousands of people in the manufacture of televisions and other electronics, during which it used up to 31 organic solvents, including trichloroethylene and tetrachloroethene, exposure to which increases the risk of cancer, a previous verdict said.
The RCA Self-Help Association, made up of former RCA employees and family members, started protesting in 1998 and filed a lawsuit in 2004 after more than 1,300 were diagnosed with various types of cancer.
It has since become one of the nation’s longest-running legal battles between a corporation and its employees.
In 1986, RCA was absorbed by US giant GE, which two years later sold RCA’s consumer electronics department to TCE, the US arm of a French firm now known as Technicolor SA.
In last year’s ruling, judges said that RCA had deliberately transferred a large portion of its assets out of Taiwan to reduce its financial liability when GE sold it to TCE, and executives then transferred US$150 million into overseas bank accounts.
After the contamination was reported at the Taoyuan site in 1991, the company sold the building and land for about NT$1.9 billion the following year, the Supreme Court said.
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