Jury didn’t believe Alcoa was ‘damaged’
What actually happened in The Big Trial? Lots of things but here’s the nitty gritty. Everyone knows the state has what’s called the “burden of proof” in a criminal trial. That’s where we get the phrase “innocent until proven guilty.”
There’s a burden of proof in a civil trial, too. It rests with the plaintiff. That was Alcoa. In Alcoa vs. Luminant the aluminum company had to prove it was damaged in some way by the actions of the energy company.
Alcoa’s attorneys didn’t convince the jury that damage ever occurred.
Alcoa maintained it was damaged by Luminant in two ways, that power outages and mismanagement of the Sandow 4 power unit cost Alcoa outrageous prices for energy and led to the shutdown of the first three potlines at Rockdale Operations.
Alcoa also claimed it was hurt by the ultimate cost of installing SCR anti-pollution controls at Unit 4, a project for which Alcoa bore 83 percent of the costs. It claimed Luminant could have done the project for much less money.
There were many key moments and witnesses but two of the most crucial were John Thuestad, the Alcoa executive who “pulled the trigger” on the decision to curtail the first three Alcoa potlines, and Don Broeils, Fluor vice-president who oversaw the SCR project.
Under cross-examination Luminant lead attorney Barry Barnett got Thuestad to admit the power company followed through on all its contract commitments to provide power to Alcoa when Unit 4 was not operating.
He also admitted the aluminum company never paid the often cited, by Alcoa, figures of $2,000 to $4,000 per megawatt hour for power during those outages.
Broeils testified the increase in costs on the SCR project were not the result of negligence by Luminant and that he did not believe a different design would have satisfied a federal judge who ordered the project.
The jury concluded Alcoa had not been damaged and not only threw out the lawsuit but ordered Alcoa to pay Luminant $10 million it had previously withheld from the SCR price tag.—M.B.