The 10-member jury of women, which began deliberations Wednesday afternoon at Chicago's federal courthouse, returned with a verdict around 6:30 p.m.Thursday to cap a three-week liability trial. In siding with Pilkington, the jurors rejected claims by about 250 Naplate families that the glass company was negligent and had willfully disregarded their health and safety.
Pilkington's lead attorney, Nicholas Kouletsis, declined comment while walking out of the courtroom with his legal team. Stunned plaintiffs lingered.
Attorneys for local home owners had presented documents and expert witnesses in an attempt to prove that tons of arsenic once used in production
at the former Libby Owens Ford plant had saturated local yards, houses and the village water supply. Pilkington mounted a defense that argued the arsenic contamination is far narrower - only in an upper aquifer that's not used by the village and maybe two residential properties, including Ludwig's home, which were developed years ago with "fill" trucked in from the LOF plant.
Shawn Collins, lead attorney for the plaintiffs, said his side would file post-trial motions with trial judge James Zagel in hopes of reversing the verdict. He wasn't sure about an appeal to a higher court.
"More than anything else, our hearts go out to these families because they have to deal with the contamination as well as this verdict," he told reporters.
Pilkington bought the Naplate sheet-glass factory in the mid-1980s nearly 20 years after operators stopped using arsenic as a smoothing agent, but the Ohio-based company assumed the previous owner's liabilities. The poisonous waste placed at the riverfront site in LaSalle County has attracted the attention of government environmental regulators.
The class-action lawsuit was filed in February 2003.