Issue Date: October 8, 2007
Supreme Court Urged to Cut High Damages Award
The American Chemistry Council is urging the U.S. Supreme Court to overturn a ruling by a federal court of appeals upholding $17.5 million in punitive damages against Continental Carbon Co. in a pollution case. Last March, a three-judge panel of the Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit in Atlanta affirmed a 2004 trial court decision that emissions of carbon black from Continental Carbon's Phenix City, Ala., facility caused discoloration and damage to property. The jury's $20.7 million judgment in favor of four plaintiffs (including the City of Columbus, Ga., and a boat dealership) for surface staining included $17.5 million in punitive damages, an amount ACC calls "grotesquely excessive." In an amicus brief, ACC contends the decision by the circuit court "exacerbates conflict and confusion in the lower federal and state appellate courts" over the meaning of guidelines established by the Supreme Court in 1996 for determining whether a punitive damages award is constitutionally appropriate.
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