A Laclede County jury has ordered an Emerson subsidiary to pay $28 million to a worker, labeled a “human guinea pig,” who claimed he suffered lung damage in the company’s Lebanon compressor plant. St. Louis-based Emerson called the verdict “preposterous” and pledged an appeal.
The lawsuit claimed the worker developed inflammation of the lung after breathing contaminants from a chemical used to cool cutting tools. His lawyer said the firm knew the dangers of working with the fluid but didn’t warn employees or provide safety training, and the same ailment has affected 300 employees at 16 metal-working facilities since 1990.
Workplace injuries are usually settled in Missouri’s workers’ compensation system, where awards are typically much smaller. The Missouri Legislature several years ago changed the law to remove injuries that develop over time from the workers’ compensation system. That change, since reversed, opened the courts to the Lebanon worker, his lawyer said.