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Judge Orders KCP&L To Pay Employee With Occupational Asthma Nearly $10.7 Million

A judge has ordered Kansas City Power & Light to pay a journeyman more than $10 million for respiratory injuries he sustained while working at the coal-fired Montrose Station plant in Clinton, Missouri.

James Philpott has worked for KCP&L since 1987. As a journeyman mechanic, he came into routine contact with sulfuric gases.

“There were a whole series of haphazard procedures and lack of attention that KCP&L utilized when working around these sulfur and sulfur byproducts,” says Ken McClain, Philpott’s lawyer.

Philpott logged the most hours of any employee in the sulfur pump house in 2011. McClain says KCP&L should have provided Philpott and other journeymen with respiratory protection gear.

“There was a whole series of workers who were exposed and complained about the irritation and bad working conditions,” McClain says. “In fact, it was called in the memos 'the sulfur war.'”

But Philpott was the only one diagnosed with occupational irritant-induced asthma.

Last week, Circuit Judge William R. Hass awarded Philpott nearly $5.4 million in compensatory damages and $5 million in punitive damages after a bench trial. He also awarded $300,000 in compensatory damages to Philpott’s wife, Mary.

Philpott now works in a different part of the plant.

KCP&L issued a statement saying it disagreed with the judgment.

“While we are still reviewing the order, we will be appealing this verdict,” a KCP&L spokesman said in an email. “Given that this is still pending litigation, we have no more comment at this time.”

Elle Moxley covers Missouri schools and politics for KCUR. You can reach her on Twitter @ellemoxley.

Elle Moxley covered education for KCUR.
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