IBM San Jose Toxic Case


Plaintiffs argued that they had suffered work related injuries due to their workplace exposures to chemicals at IBM’s disk drive manufacturing facility in San Jose, California. To support their allegations, Plaintiffs’ experts used an advanced Computational Fluid Dynamics (CFD) model to simulate air flow and chemical concentrations inside the disk drive manufacturing work areas.

EnviroComp's Role

We were retained by the attorneys representing International Business Machines Corporation (IBM) in what was the first toxic tort case involving the microelectronics industry to go to trial anywhere in the US. Our main role was to understand, replicate, and verify the CFD computer runs performed by the Plaintiffs’ experts.

By visualizing the three-dimensional CFD simulations we were able to identify major errors in the physical design of the work rooms, air recirculation parameters, and chemical injection rates. All these errors contributed to simulate high, unrealistic, and scientifically erroneous indoor concentrations of toxic chemicals. When we corrected the mistakes we found in the CFD simulations, concentration values declined dramatically. Our analysis of vector streamlines also helped us visualize design problems with plaintiffs' models and identify corrections.

The case went to trial in the Santa Clara County Superior Court, where the jury returned a unanimous verdict in favor of the defense. See: