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Sat, Feb 28, 2004 - Page 12 News List

IBM cleared of liability for ex-employees' cancer

AP , SANTA CLARA, CALIFORNIA

IBM attorney Robert Weber, right, shakes hands with attorney Richard Alexander, left, as plantiff James Moore, center left, and unidentified woman, center right, look on after a jury decided in a Santa Clara, California, courtroom on Thursday that IBM Corp was not responsible for the cancers that developed in Moore and Alida Hernandez, two former employees at a disk drive plant. Alexander is the attorney for both Moore and Hernandez.

PHOTO: AP

In a major victory for the electronics industry, a jury decided that IBM Corp was not responsible for the cancers that developed in two former employees at a disk-drive plant.

The jury on Thursday cleared the computer giant of claims that the harsh chemicals used in its factory caused the retirees' illnesses. The former workers, who were diagnosed with cancer in the 1990s, were seeking damages that could have totaled millions of dollars.

The trial was the first of more than 200 similar lawsuits against IBM, and riveted the industry, which bills itself as clean and progressive. Some observers had said a jury verdict against IBM could have triggered more lawsuits against semiconductor companies and other high-tech businesses.

The two retirees who brought the California case claimed IBM hid the dangers of their job at the plant in San Jose. IBM said the unanimous jury decision vindicated Big Blue from the charges of "fraudulent concealment."

"We're pleased with the result," said IBM spokesman Chris Andrews. "It's an acknowledgment that employee safety and health is part of our culture."

Retiree James Moore, 62, began working for IBM in the 1960s and suffers from non-Hodgkins lymphoma. His attorney asked the jury to award him US$11,000 per year for the rest of his life in lost wages, US$26,000 in medical expenses and possibly millions in pain and suffering.

Moore looked unemotional as the verdict was read in Santa Clara County Superior Court. Afterward, he said he felt disappointed and betrayed.

"I trusted IBM," Moore said. "If I knew then what I know now, I would have walked off the job."

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