Colorado residents awarded $553 million in plutonium contamination case
February 20, 2006
A federal jury recommended recently that Dow Chemical Co. and the former Rockwell International Corp. pay $553.9 million to thousands of property owners who said their land was contaminated by plutonium from the former Rocky Flats nuclear weapons plant, the Associated Press reports. The jury concluded the two companies damaged private property around the site through negligence that caused "class members to be exposed to plutonium and (placed) them at some increased risk of health problems." The lawsuit was filed in 1990 on behalf of 13,000 people. The jury in U.S. District Court in Denver also said the damage from the radioactive material may never go away. The verdict called for punitive damages of $110.8 million against Dow Chemical and $89.4 million against Rockwell. The jury also recommended the companies pay $352 million in actual damages. The final award is likely to be less because of limits in state and federal law, but could still reach $352 million. Dow said it would appeal, saying the judge improperly instructed the jury. The company said property values in the area have increased and scientific studies have showed no harm to residents'' health or property. Dow operated the plant from the 1950s until 1975; Rockwell ran it from 1975 until the plant was shut down.