Morgan argues for new trial against DuPont

Marilyn Tennissen May 16, 2008, 2:34pm

Editor's note: For DuPont's arguments in the hearing, see "Defense attorney stands by jury verdict in DuPont trial" on the Southeast Texas Web site.

In a six week trial that concluded March 25, plaintiffs' attorney Glen Morgan had argued that a former DuPont employee, Willis Whisnant Jr., contracted mesothelioma and died because of his exposure to asbestos at the Sabine River Works.

But the jury found that there was no negligence on the part of DuPont and awarded the plaintiff nothing.

On May 9, Morgan filed a motion for a new trial, citing that the jury's verdict was completely contradictory to the preponderance of the evidence.

Trial court Judge Donald Floyd allowed a hearing on Morgan's motion and DuPont's response on Friday, May 16.

"The only reason we are here today is because the verdict goes against the weight of the evidence, otherwise I wouldn't waste the court's time," Morgan said.

He said during the trial there had been indisputable evidence that DuPont knew of the hazards of asbestos for decades, but failed to provide a reasonably safe place to work or properly warn workers of the danger.

"DuPont presented no evidence to contradict that," Morgan said.

He said that when the verdict was read, the most surprised person in the courtroom appeared to have been Larry Cotten, who had presented some of the witnesses for DuPont.

"You could hear him gasp," Morgan said. "I assume because he was surprised by the verdict. There was so much indisputable evidence, that it should have been overwhelmingly in favor of the plaintiff."

In the motion, Morgan also tried to make a connection between the Southeast Texas Record's coverage of the Whisnant trial, DuPont and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. The Southeast Texas Record is owned by the Institute for Legal Reform, an affiliate of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.

He told Judge Floyd that the Chamber's goal was to have the Record influence juries by writing stories favorable to the defense and then making the paper available free of charge right outside the courthouse.

"I am all for the First Amendment, it is important to uphold it," Morgan said. "But with that freedom of speech comes some responsibility to make sure you are acting in the best interest of the public."

He said that though it was reported in the Record, he did not ask for a billion dollar verdict or say that DuPont's behavior had been so bad that it should lose its right to exist. Morgan said those same misstatements were used in DuPont's response to his motion for a new trial.

Because the verdict did not match the evidence, the jury may have been affected by an outside influence, like the Southeast Texas Record.

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