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Celanese Limited, formerly known as Hoechst Celanese Chemical Group, Ltd. (Celanese) appeals from a judgment in its favor following a jury trial. Celanese sued Chemical Waste Management, Inc. and Waste Management Industrial Services, Inc. (Waste Management) for negligence, fraud, and breach of contract. The jury awarded Celanese 1.7 million dollars based on a finding that Waste Management was negligent, but found no fraud or breach of contract. The jury also refused to award punitive damages. Celanese argues that the jury’s damage award is wholly inadequate and unsupported by the evidence, that the trial court erred by refusing to submit its claim for malice to the jury, and that the jury question regarding the measure of damages incorrectly informed the jury about the scope of available damages.

Celanese owns and operates a chemical manufacturing and processing plant. It installed a reactor designed to produce acrylic acid at its Clear Lake facility. The reactor is described as a vertical, two-stage, multi-tubed device built primarily from carbon steel. It operates by running gas through “catalyst-filled” tubes in the interior of the reactor. The first stage contains 22,000 vertical tubes, the ends of which are welded into two horizontal plates (tubesheets). The second stage also contains 22,000 vertical tubes welded into two different tubesheets. Those tubes are filled with a different catalyst which completes the chemical transformation. The reactor operates at over 500 degrees Fahrenheit. The temperature is maintained by circulating a molten salt solution around the tubes. If the solution gets into the catalyst, the process is degraded.

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