DuPont dramatics

The SE Texas Record Mar. 1, 2008, 6:00am

Right versus wrong doesn't a difficult decision make.

No, the truly tough choices in life are always about the trade-offs.

Such as whether a Jefferson County Court should put chemical giant DuPont out of business, killing 60,000 jobs and transferring billions in company assets to the estate of Willis Whisnat, Jr. and his lawyer, Glen Morgan.

Whisnat worked at DuPont's Sabine Works facility back in the 1960s as a contractor. He died of mesothelioma, the disease otherwise known as asbestos cancer, says Morgan in a Jefferson County trial last week.

Morgan claims DuPont is responsible for his client's death. He wants a jury to come back with a verdict so large that the company's "right to exist should be taken away."

That's if the jury accepts Morgan's version of cause-and-effect--that DuPont should pay for the death of longtime smoker Whisnat because it used a legal product to insulate pipes 40 years ago.

If the jury were to accept Morgan's argument, they would bestow generational wealth upon a well-to-do lawyer and the Whisnat family. But doing so would cost DuPont employees here and elsewhere their livelihoods, and wreak havoc on the retirement savings of a horde of investors.

Despite the oft-promoted caricature, this conflict doesn't pit rich DuPont versus little guy Willis Whisnat. The money being sought would have to come from somewhere. The costs of saddling billions in blame--as recommended by Morgan--will stretch far and wide and hurt the poor far more than the rich.

That's the trade-off. Justice served up in heaping piles of cash for a few at the expense of working folks paying the price in lost jobs and income.

Maybe Morgan and the Whisnats would start a local chemical plant with their winnings. Or maybe they would buy private planes, host gaudy galas, and start amassing epic collections of antique cars like some other legendary local asbestos barristers.

Or maybe, just maybe, they'll lose this round after all. For Southeast Texas' sake, we sure hope so.

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