Judge Affirms $47 Million Verdict Against Dyno Nobel For Causing Respiratory Injuries To Electrical ForemanPosted on September 2, 2022
Federal District Judge affirms $46.75 million verdict for a former electrical foreman who suffered serious and permanent injuries after Dyno Nobel Inc. (a subsidiary of Incitec Pivot) released excess levels of nitrogen oxide (NOx) from its Louisiana, Mo. nitric acid plant. The April 29, 2022 jury verdict in the Eastern District of Missouri before Judge Henry Autrey awarded $13.75 million for Teddy Scott, $3 million for Melanie Scott, and $30 million in punitive damages.
After the verdict, Dyno Nobel filed post-trial motions seeking a judgment in its favor notwithstanding the verdict, a remittitur (reduction) of the damages, and/or a new trial. Dyno Nobel claimed that there was not sufficient evidence to support the verdict, punitive damages were not warranted and unconstitutionally excessive, and the judge made various evidentiary errors.
The district judge denied both post-trial motions in two separate orders, concluding that “despite the known dangers of releasing NOx emissions given the circumstances on March 20, 2015, Defendant recklessly disregarded other peoples’ safety by continuing the startup without taking the proper precautions. Plaintiffs ‘established with convincing clarity—that is, that it was highly probable—that the defendant’s conduct was outrageous because of evil motive or reckless indifference.’” [Doc. 494, p.17].
“Based on the rulings, and having witnessed all the evidence at trial, the judge clearly saw the outrageous conduct of Dyno Nobel and understands the severity of Teddy’s life altering permanent injuries, and the change in his wife and children’s lives,” Lakin said. The jury’s verdict sent a clear message to Dyno Nobel that it can no longer disregard the health and safety of its neighbors.”
On March 20, 2015, Teddy Scott and his crew were working at the Calumet synthetic lubricants plant in Louisiana, Mo. — right next to a Dyno Nobel manufacturing plant. Teddy Scott was an electrical foreman and field engineer for Ardent, contracted to work at the Calumet plant on its expansion.
That day, while Dyno Nobel personnel were starting up its nitric acid plant in the early morning hours, an equipment failure happened. In violation of its own policies and procedures, Dyno Nobel didn’t purge the poisonous NOx gas, repaired the equipment, and restarted the plant around 8:15 am while workers were working next door. It was the first documented time that a start-up occurred during working hours. Dyno Nobel failed to inform those working at Calumet about excessive and dangerous emissions that occur during a start-up. Because of Dyno Nobel’s failure to follow its own procedures, a high concentration of poisonous NOx that was never purged from the system after the first failed start-up was released.
While evacuating his crew from the adjacent job site, Scott was hit by a cloud of NOx, inhaled the poisonous fumes, and immediately became seriously ill. He and two truckloads of workers were transferred to Pike County Memorial Hospital for treatment.
In the days, weeks, months, and years that followed, Scott was rendered to a shell of his former self — not just physically and occupationally, but also emotionally.
Scott was left with significant and permanent pulmonary and neurological damage. He suffers irritable larynx syndrome, where he experiences laryngeal spasms one to two times per week. These attacks cause him to experience a feeling of choking to death and often results in him losing consciousness. He will have these episodes for the rest of his life. On one occasion, while walking with his pastor, Teddy had a laryngeal spasm, passed out, and injured a disc in his back. He will never be able to work again.
“The Dyno Nobel plant in Louisiana, Mo. was its only plant without NOx abatement,” Schmieder said. “Dyno Nobel showed complete indifference to its neighbors and the workers at the Calumet site by initiating the start-up during work hours, failing to follow its own work procedures, and didn’t even warn them about the excessive NOx emissions during the start-up. Because of that, Teddy has to live the rest of his life in relative isolation in order to avoid his attacks. His wife, Melanie, has to not only assume Teddy’s responsibilities but also take care of Teddy. This verdict recognizes the devastation to their family, and the judge’s rulings confirm that the jury got it right.”