US: IBM Settles Suit Over Toxic-Chemical Claims

Publisher Name: 
Los Angeles Times

IBM Corp. settled a lawsuit Tuesday over claims that a worker's exposure to chemicals at the company's plant in New York caused her child to be born with birth defects.

Terms of the settlement in the Candace Curtis case are confidential, said Christopher Andrews, a spokesman for Armonk, N.Y.-based IBM. A state Supreme Court judge in White Plains, N.Y., dismissed the case before jury selection was scheduled to begin.

Last week a California jury said IBM wasn't liable for two workers' cancers in the first of more than 200 related toxic-chemical cases to go to trial. The chemicals involved in the cases are used in clean rooms, a type of facility used by many computer companies to keep dust and impurities away from components.

IBM in 2001 settled a case with two former workers at its East Fishkill, N.Y., plant who said the chemicals caused their son to be born blind. The Curtis case would have been the first birth-defect case to go to trial.

"IBM firmly believes that it had no liability in this case and its workplace did not cause the plaintiff's injuries," Andrews said.

Curtis, 23, claimed IBM didn't warn her mother that exposure to chemicals during her pregnancy was harmful. Her mother was a contract worker who started working in a clean room at the East Fishkill plant when she was one month pregnant. Curtis was born with microcephaly, an abnormal smallness of the head.

In the California case, Alida Hernandez and James Moore claimed that working in similar clean rooms gave them systemic chemical poisoning, which eventually led to cancer. Hernandez has breast cancer and Moore had non-Hodgkin's lymphoma. The jury deliberated for two days after a four-month trial.

Lawyers in the California case said they were hampered by California's labor law and weren't allowed to introduce "devastating evidence" against IBM. They said the Curtis case in New York would have showcased that evidence.

IBM fell 22 cents to $96.82 on the New York Stock Exchange.

AMP Section Name:Human Rights