Page 8-Saturday, May 19, 1979-The Michigan Daily
Kerr-MeGee first nuke firm held negligent
OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) - The $10.5
million verdict yesterday against the
Kerr-McGee Corp. could set legal
precedent because it apparently is the
first time a nuclear industry company
has been held "strictly liable for
radioactive contamination outside its
U.S. District Judge Frank Theis
outlined to jurors in his instructions in
the Karen Silkwood plutonium con-
tamination case that he decided as a
matter of law that the Kerr-McGee
nuclear fuel plant was "an abnormally
dangerous activity." As such, the legal
doctrine of strict liability applies.
FOLLOWING A 52-day trial of a civil
suit brought by Miss Silkwood's estate,
a three-man, three-woman federal jury
returned a judgment against her em-
ployer, the Kerr-McGee Corp., in con-
nection with that contamination. The
money will go to the three children she
had during her marriage to Bill
Meadows, which ended in divorce in
Miss Silkwood, a 28-year-old lab
technician, was active in the Atomic
Workers union because she felt it was
her only tool to improve.conditions at
the nuclear fuel plant where she
Friends and family say she had ex-
celled in high school chemistry classes
in Nederland, Texas, and had a good
understanding of the nature of
BUT SHE didn't learn how highly
toxic the radioactive element
plutonium is until an October 1974
union-sponsored seminar. Those who
knew her said she left the lectures by
two University of Minnesota professors
shaking her head, her eyes wide with
Two weeks before the lectures, she
and two co-workers had filed 39 health
and safety allegations against Kerr-
McGee. Although the charges were not
investigated until after her death,
many were substantiated.
THE ENGLISH common law doc-
trine was first upheld in the late 1880s
and has been widely used in cases in-
volving explosives manufacturing.
Kerr-McGee's only defense, the judge
said, would have been proof of its con-
tention that Miss Silkwood took the
plutonium home from her job at the
Theis told jurors that under strict
liability, a company can be held liable
for injuries suffered because of its ac-
tivities even when "the utmost care" is
exercised to prevent such injuries.
"There's no reported case that either
side could find extending this doctrine
to the nuclear industry," Jim Ikard, a
Silkwood lawyer, said.
Dr. George Voelz, chief of the health
division at Los Alamos Scientific
Laboratory in New Mexico, said the
verdict is "an historic reversal" of the
normal operating philosophy of
management and employee respon-
"It will have an immense impact on
the philosophy and thinking of how one
could conduct business under a system
whereby an individual could be reim-
bursed" for an event which under
"normal rules of business he is respon-
sible for preventing."
Voelz said the verdict could mean
companies in any hazardous industry
may be forced to pay for what he ter-
med the irresponsible acts of their em-
Milliken approves loans
from state funds to replace
illegal tandem tankers
LANSING (UPI)-Gov. William
Milliken has approved up to $6 million
in loans from the state's recreation land
trust fund to replace outlawed gasoline-
hauling tandem tankers.
The action amounted to the last gasp
in one of the major legislative battles of
Responding to a rash of accidents in-
volving double-bottom tankers-and
fearing a fiery freeway crash that could
jeopardize hundreds of lives-the
legislature last year ordered a two-step
ban on the big rigs.
TRUCKERS WERE required im-
mediately to fit the rigs with
modifications increasing the stability of
the rear trailer, or "pup." Ultimately,
tandem gasoline tankers will be banned
Lawmakers also approved a loan
program to help trucking firms meet
the costs of the modifications and
replacement of lost hauling capacity.
The five-year loans at 4 per cent in-
terest originally were supposed to have
come from the state's general fund.
However, lawmakers found themselves
in a budget squeeze and were forced to
look elsewhere for the loan money.
WITHOUT THE LOANS, truckers
told the legislature they are starting
bankruptcy in the face.
It was decided to take the money for
the next two years from the recreation
land trust fund, which is made up of
royalties on gas and oil production on
state land and was intended for the pur-
chase of prime recreational parcels for
By law, portions of the fund are
reserved for investment. Essentially,
the loans will be the fund's investments.
AFTER THE two-year period.
another source of money presumably
will be sought.
It has also been suggested that the
state simply pay the truckers the dif-
ference between the four per cent in-
terest rate and whatever interest
charges they must pay to obtain private
Under the measure signed by
Milliken, the state must return to the
recreation land fund any lost interest
and any defaults.
The Ann Arbor Film Cooperative presents at MLB
SATURDAY, MAY 19 $1.50
DEALING: OR THE BERKELEY-TO-BOSTON
FORTY-BRICK LOST BAG BLUES
(Paul Williams, 1972) 7 only-MLD 3
From the book by Michael Crichton comes on engaging spoof of the youth/drug
and cops and robbers film genres. This marijuana film culminates in a grand
finale chose scene, "just crazy and bizarre enough to be bang-on right . .
-NEW YORK TIMES.
(Leo Gasnier, 1936) REEFER MADNESS 8:48only-MLB3
Originally entitled "Tell Your Children," this anti-marijuana progogando film
seen today is a hilarious comp comedy. The weed is described as "the new
drug menace which is destroying the Youth of America!" PLUS: THE MYSTERY
OF THE LEAPING FISH (John Emerson, 1916), the classic "Cocaine Comedy"
with Douglas Fairbanks, Sr., as detective Coke Ennydoy-a parody of Sherlock
Holmes. Scenario by Tod Browning, supervised by D.W. Griffith.
THE COCAINE FIENDS
(William O'Connor, 1938) 10:20Oonly-MLB 3
A marvelously camp comedy/drama about a young brother and sister from
the country who follow the lights to the big city and end up mired in dope and
corruption. With classic lines like "Would you like to take a sleigh ride with