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Judge Tells IBM, Ex-Workers to Negotiate

March 04, 2004|From Times Wire Services

A California judge ordered settlement talks between IBM Corp. and former workers suing the company over toxic chemical exposure after a jury last week found the company wasn't liable for two workers' cancers in the first of such cases to go to trial.

Santa Clara County Superior Court Judge Robert Baines, who presided over that four-month trial, told the parties to find a mediator to assist in settlement discussions in about 50 similar cases filed by former workers at IBM's San Jose plant, according to court documents dated Monday.

More than 200 toxic chemical cases are pending nationwide against Armonk, N.Y.-based IBM. The chemicals are used in clean rooms, which are kept free of dust and impurities to protect computer components. IBM settled a New York lawsuit Tuesday over claims that the chemicals caused birth defects.

"This court has determined that, with the first trial now completed, the time is opportune for all parties to participate in further discussions aimed at resolution of all matters coordinated herein," Baines wrote.

"All proceedings in the coordinated actions are hereby ordered stayed until further order of this court," the order said.

Both sides of the IBM cases portrayed Baines' settlement order as a signal for the strength of their cases. "These cases have no merit," IBM spokesman Chris Andrews said.

Amanda Hawes, an attorney for the California workers, said the settlement talks were a good development. "I represent people who've been battling disease for many years," she said.

A jury deliberated two days before finding that former clean room workers Alida Hernandez and James Moore failed to prove that chemicals they worked with made them sick. Hernandez has breast cancer and Moore has non-Hodgkin's lymphoma.

Shares of IBM rose 2 cents to $96.84 on the New York Stock Exchange.

Bloomberg News and Reuters were used in compiling this report.

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