June 3, 2008

Wow - Taxpayers to Foot Bill for $200 Million in Punitive Damages for Rocky Flats Nuclear Plant Activities?

As we previously reported, Rockwell International and Dow Chemical Company were whacked for $350 million in a case brought by landowners who claimed that contamination from the Rocky Flats nuclear weapons facility reduced their property values. The judgment included punitive damages of $111 million against Dow and $89 million against Rockwell, plus an award of interest dating back to 1990, which could bring the total judgment to more than $900 million.

The Denver Post now reports that, "The ruling in the 18-year-old case was stayed by[Judge] Kane to give Dow and Rockwell time to appeal." That certainly helps avoid one major stumbling block faced by defendants hit with mega-awards - how to bond the judgment to stay enforcement pending appeal. The Post also reports that the defendants "were indemnified by the federal government in the case, meaning taxpayers will ultimately pay any judgment and the companies' legal fees." Ouch. Interestingly, these other reports about the case don't mention the indemnity angle (though they mention that Boeing is liable for Rockwell's portion of the judgment because Boeing acquired Rockwell).