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Clint Gilbert
Clint Gilbert
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Jury Recommends $553 Million Award in Contamination Suit

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A federal jury in Denver has recommended an award of $553.9 to several thousand land owners whose property was contaminated by Dow Chemical Company and Rockwell International Corp. The area in dispute in the lawsuit, filed in 1990, surrounds the former Rocky Flats nulear waeapons facility near Denver, Colorado. Some 13,000 land owners are represented in the class suit.

The Rocky Flats facility manufactured plutonium triggers for nuclear warheads for decades before it was closed in 1989. Rockwell Automation and Dow Chemical operated Rocky Flats at different times, both under contract with the US Government.

According to the lawsuit, both Rockwell and Dow Chemical negligently mishandled radioactive waste. Attorneys for the plaintiff class presented evidence during the 4-month trial showing higher instances of lung cancer near the Rocky Flats site. Coincidently, Rockwell settled a 1992 lawsuit for $18.5 over negligent storage and contamination of water supply to nearby cities.

Deliberations lasted 18 days, with the jury returning a recommendation of $110.8 million in punitive damages against Dow Chemical and $89.4 million against Rockwell. $352 million in actual damages were also recommended for diminished property values caused by the contamination. State and federal limits will likely reduce the final award.