The High Court yesterday ordered Radio Corp of America (RCA) to pay NT$54.7 million (US$1.82 million) in compensation to only 24 of 246 plaintiffs, sparking an outcry among former workers of the US company and their lawyers, who vowed to appeal the verdict.
The class-action lawsuit was filed by the RCA Self-Help Association, which is made up of former employees and deceased workers’ families. The suit dates back to 2004 and has gone through several trials.
The judges yesterday said that as there was no proof that would clearly establish a correlation between health problems as a direct result of exposure to chemical materials at an RCA plant, it ruled against compensating most of the 246 plaintiffs.
Photo: Chien Jung-fong, Taipei Times
In August 2018, the Supreme Court ordered RCA to pay NT$564.45 million in compensation to 262 of the plaintiffs — either former workers who developed cancer or other illnesses, or family members of deceased workers.
It found the US company liable for the cancer and other illnesses that some employees had contracted while handling organic solvents, which were later found to be carcinogenic, at its factory in then-Taoyuan County.
Investigators had found toxic waste dumped around the factory, contaminating the soil and underground water, and more than 200 employees have since died.
The Supreme Court also ordered the High Court to retry the case for 246 other plaintiffs, because “some plaintiffs have no clear manifestation of illnesses ... and no proof of a clear correlation for cause and effect.”
Elaborating on yesterday’s ruling, High Court judge Tao Ya-chin (陶亞琴) said that the plaintiffs were divided into three groups: A for former employees who had died; B for those who had developed illnesses; and C for those who had no obvious illness.
Compensation was awarded as follows: 10 from group A, eight from group B and six from group C, or a total of 24, Tao said.
Speaking on behalf of the legal team, attorney Lin Yong-song (林永頌) said that for many of the plaintiffs, the ruling was disappointing and unacceptable, and they would file an appeal.
“The litigation has gone through first and second rulings, the Supreme Court and a retrial at the High Court, but during the trial hearing, the judges were deferential to the experts who were called as witnesses, and did not ask questions. We regret that the retrial was not conducted in a more rigorous manner,” said Lin, head of the Judicial Reform Foundation.
“This ruling is unfair to workers. It is a conservative decision, with no forward-looking vision. We regret witnessing such a process and a ruling that is lacking in quality, with the judges unwilling to explain the basis for their ruling on compensation. We need reforms for these judges and this judicial bureaucracy,” he added.
In December last year, the Taipei District Court ruled in favor of 1,115 claimants in a separate class-action lawsuit against RCA and three of its affiliates — General Electric, Thomson Consumer Electronics (Bermuda), and Technicolor SA — awarding them a total of about NT$2.3 billion.
That ruling has been appealed by both sides to the High Court.
Additional reporting by CNA
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