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Jury Awards $500 Million in Toxic Fumes Death Case

September 29, 1995

TAMPA, Fla. (AP) _ A jury awarded $500 million to the parents of a boy who died after breathing toxic fumes while playing in a trash bin where a plastics company had dumped chemicals.

The Circuit Court verdict Thursday against Durex Industries Inc. is believed to be the largest ever in a wrongful-death lawsuit in the United States, said Russell Moran, who publishes the New York Jury Verdict Reporter.

John and Lisa Perez were awarded $200 million in compensatory damages and $300 million in punitive damages.

Durex, which made rollers for the printing industry, was fined $1.5 million in January after pleading no contest to criminal environmental violations regarding its handling of toluene, the chemical that killed 9-year-olds Scott Perez and his playmate Anthony Neil Storman in 1992.

Two former Durex employees were found guilty of illegally dumping toxic chemicals in the bin near the Durex plant. They were sentenced to 27 months in prison.

The company has closed and says it is bankrupt. It did not defend itself in the Perez family’s lawsuit.

Former Durex attorney Stephen Crawford said that putting up a defense would be a ``charade and a waste of taxpayer dollars because there is no company.″ He said the verdict would not be ``worth the paper it’s written on.″

The other boy’s parents have also sued Durex.

The Perez family’s attorney, Barry Cohen, said he will seek to collect from William Recht Co., the Jersey City, N.J., parent of Durex. ``And maybe the ripple effect of this verdict will prevent the future Scottys from dying,″ he said.

A call to company president William Recht Jr.’s home Friday was not immediately returned.

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