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SAN JOSE � Attorneys who won a $175 million verdict this week against two chemical companies charged with polluting Modesto’s drinking water say they are just getting started. A. Curtis Sawyer Jr., a Sacramento-based attorney whose firm is representing the city of Modesto, said Wednesday his client intends to go after a lot more companies in the near future, and he hinted that they may want to consider an out-of-court settlement in future litigation. “We’ve always tried to resolve the case through settlement,” but the chemical companies refused to budge, said Sawyer, a partner with Miller, Axline & Sawyer. “I hope the defendants are digesting what happened,” he added. “There is many more to come � the ball is in their court.” After listening to four months of testimony, a San Francisco jury Tuesday ordered Vulcan Materials and Dow Chemical Co. to pay $100 million and $75 million in punitive damages, respectively, for not warning Modesto about the potentially harmful effects their dry-cleaning products could have on residents. The chemicals, believed to cause cancer, were found in the city’s drinking water. The case was originally filed in 1998. Jurors on Tuesday also delivered a $75,000 verdict against R.R. Street & Co., which manufactures dry-cleaning equipment. The jury said all three companies had acted maliciously. The defendants are in the process of appealing the verdict, and a hearing before San Francisco Superior Court Judge John Munter is set for July 26. Last week, the same jury awarded Modesto $3.17 million in compensatory damages, after finding the three companies along with others guilty of the contamination. While John Thomas, a Houston lawyer who represents R.R. Street, expressed relief Wednesday that the damages against his client weren’t as high as the others awarded, he still called the jury’s decision “inappropriate” and “not supportive of the evidence.” Attorney Noel Edlin, whose client, Modesto Steam Laundry & Cleaners, received a defense verdict in the case last week, said it’s unlikely the puntitive verdicts will stand. “There is a ratio that the court has to consider,” said Edlin, a partner with San Francisco’s Bassi Martini Edlin & Blum. He noted that the punitive damages are far above the 9-1 ratio suggested by the U.S. Supreme Court in Campbell v. State Farm, 538 U.S. 753. Modesto Steam still faces nonjury environmental claims, but for right now, Edlin seems pleased with how things are shaking out. “We were very confident that we had made a compelling argument to the jury,” Edlin said. The cases are City of Modesto v. Dow, 999643 and City of Modesto Redevelopment Agency v. Dow, 999345.

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