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Jury Awards $28 Million in Damages to Injured Plant Worker

LEBANON -- A Laclede County man is awarded possibly the largest lawsuit judgment in Missouri this year at 28 million dollars.
LEBANON -- A Laclede County man is awarded possibly the largest lawsuit judgment in Missouri this year at 28 million dollars.

A jury found his employer, Copeland Scroll Compressors, responsible for causing a respiratory injury while he was on the job.

Philip Berger works at the air conditioner compressor plant in Lebanon.

In 2005, he said a machine malfunction exposed him to toxic fumes, causing damage to his lungs.

"Really, I thought I was going to die at that time," Berger said, "Well, it's kind of like having an elephant on your chest. I'm on medication all the time so I won't react to it."

In 2010 he sued the company.

And on November 22, a jury awarded him 28 million dollars in damages.

"We were of course very gratified," his attorney Kenneth McClain said, "It's the largest verdict ever in Laclede County and reflects the seriousness with which the jury took this matter."

Berger said he's glad the trial took place in his home county.

"I think it makes it a little more honest," he said.

But the company has appealed the verdict.

It issued this statement, "The jury's decision in this case is preposterous. The Copeland Plant is a very safe work environment."

The company points out that Berger continued to work full time during his illness and rode his bike to work every day.

Berger said he's just trying to exercise for as long as he can.

"I'm on a slippery slope so I'd like to keep what I've got in good shape," he said.

Since the verdict, Berger has shown up for work and been escorted off the property.

"It looks like I've been fired but I can't say for sure," he said.

Letters to the company from his lawyer have gone un-returned.

For now Berger is waiting to see if he's still employed and whether the verdict will hold up in the end.

The appeals process could take two or more years.

If that court decides there needs to be a re-trial, it could be many more years before Berger sees that 28 million dollars.
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