Report: IBM Settles Suit; Industry Under a Microscope

LOS ANGELES — IBM Corp. has settled a lawsuit with two former employees who claimed that exposure to toxic fumes at one of the company’s New York plants in the 1980s caused birth defects in their son, according to published reports.

The case is part of an ongoing multibillion dollar legal fight between IBM and its chemical suppliers, and more than 220 IBM employees at IBM semiconductor plants in San Jose, New York and Vermont.

Similar complaints have been filed against National Semiconductor, according to the Los Angeles Times. It seems many feel the ongoing litigation could serve as a marker for other similar complaints against the hi-tech industry, which has long portrayed itself as particularly clean.

The case between Michael Ruffing and Faye Carlton, which was filed in 1996, was scheduled to trial in late February. The two initially sought $40 million in damages. Details of the settlement were sealed, according to the report.

“The fact that IBM felt compelled to settle the case when it was on the verge of going to court is a good sign that they felt insecure in their position,” Ted Smith, executive director of the Silicon Valley Toxics Coalition told the Times.

According to court documents, there have been reports of workers at both IBM and National Semiconductor who fainted from chemical leaks while wearing protective suits and of workers who have vomited in cleanroom showers.

IBM has declined to comment on the settlement and officials from National Semiconductor were not available for comment.


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