By GARY McELROY Staff Reporter Mobile Press-Register
A chemical expert who contended that he created a method of transforming certain hazardous industrial wastes into lucrative manufacturing ingredients - only to have his idea usurped - was awarded a $192 million jury verdict Friday in Mobile.
The verdict in favor of Dr. Sven Peter Mannsfeld and against Ineos Americas LLC and Ineos Phenol followed four hours of jury deliberation in a trial that began Oct. 6 before Circuit Judge Robert Smith.
The monetary figure was strictly compensatory; there were no punitive damages involved.
According to his attorneys, Mannsfeld, 72, conceived an idea in the late 1990s, not long before he retired from the chemical field, of using hazardous waste materials as building products in the manufacture of items such as tires.
In 2004, his attorneys argued, Mannsfeld came to realize that the defendants were using his idea and had even devised patents for the process in Germany, Belgium, the European Union and the United States.
Mannsfeld filed suit in June 2006.
During the two-week trial before Smith, more than 20 witnesses testified, court officials said.
Jurors got the case late Thursday and delivered their verdict early Friday morning.
Mobile attorney Skip Finkbonner said outside court later Friday that the company patented his client's idea without telling him.
"They stole it from him," Finkbonner said. "It was clearly his idea, his invention. They put Peter's invention in their patent."
Ineos Americas LLC owns a chemical plant in the Theodore Industrial Park, and Ineos Phenol is a German-based company that owns Ineos Americas, court officials said.
Finkbonner said the $192 million figure was the projected profit the Theodore plant alone is expected make into the year 2025.
Jim Johnston, local counsel for attorneys Jim Grant and Chris Riley of the Atlanta firm of Alston and Bird, helped represent the companies.
Contacted Friday afternoon outside court, Johnston would not speculate on whether the companies would appeal the jury decision and declined further comment until the defense team is able to consult with its clients.