Eli Lilly has been left stunned by a ruling against its Brazilian subsidiary alleging that some employees were exposed to hazardous materials in a manufacturing facility between 1977 and 2003.

A court in the state of Sao Paolo has hit Lilly with a $450 million fine after a group of former workers they were exposed to chemical substances at the site. However, Lilly is going to appeal noting that the alleged contaminants – benzene and heavy metals – were never used in the manufacturing operations at the facility.

In addition, the US major argues that the court's published ruling "is based on inaccurate scientific claims, as well as mathematical errors". Michael Harrington, Lilly's general counsel, said that "safety of our employees around the world is paramount", adding that in this case, "there is absolutely no basis for the court's decision" that the workers were harmed.

Lilly says its stance is based on "extensive scientific and medical assessments conducted by third-party health experts", as well as by the company's own tests. Mr Harrington concluded by saying that "for that reason, we strongly disagree with the court's ruling and will appeal this decision".