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Lilly to appeal $450M ruling over poisoned workers in Brazil

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Eli Lilly and Co. plans to appeal a ruling from a judge in Brazil that fined the pharmaceutical giant and an Italian firm $450 million for poisoning workers at a manufacturing plant in the South American country.

Brazilian federal prosecutors announced the verdict on Friday. They had accused a Lilly subsidiary of incinerating toxic waste from third parties, releasing heavy metals and gases that poisoned some of the 500 workers at the plant in Cosmopolis, according to Reuters.

The ruling followed a 2008 lawsuit against Lilly and Antibioticos do Brasil Ltda, a unit of Italy's ACS Dobfar, which now owns the site. Prosecutors said 77 of 80 former workers tested for the initial filing presented evidence of poisoning.

Lilly officials strongly objected to the judge’s verdict.

"Safety of our employees around the world is paramount," said Michael J. Harrington, senior vice president and general counsel for Lilly, in a statement released Friday.  "In this case, there is absolutely no basis for the court's decision that employees were harmed based on extensive scientific and medical assessments conducted by third-party health experts, as well as by Lilly.

"For that reason, we strongly disagree with the court's ruling and will appeal this decision."

The alleged contaminants—benzene and heavy metals—were never used in the manufacturing operations at the facility, according to the company. It also claimed the published ruling was based on inaccurate scientific claims and mathematical errors.

Lilly operated the manufacturing plant from 1977 to 2003, according to the company. Cosmopolis is about 90 miles north of San Paulo, Brazil.

Lilly spokeswoman Amy Souza said Monday that the firm still was scrutinizing the ruling, which was issued in Portuguese, to get a better sense of how it specifically applied to the company.

As part of the recent ruling, Judge Antonia Rita Bonardo prohibited operations at the plant for a year due to the environmental impact, according to Reuters.
 

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