DuPont to pay US$5.1 million in damages

Published:  07 July, 2016

Second payout for contamination with C8 chemicals.

A jury in Columbus, Ohio has found DuPont liable for a man’s testicular cancer.

During the trial David Freeman claimed that DuPont had knowingly dumped perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) – also known as C8 – into the Ohio River.

Freeman lived in Little Hocking, Ohio, which was served by the largest rural water system in Washington County. Little Hocking Water Association last year settled its lawsuit against DuPont for polluting its well fields.

Freeman had alleged that DuPont was aware of the potential toxicity of C8 as early as 1954 and that its own researchers knew that it was toxic by at least 1961. Plaintiffs argued that the company didn’t inform the public of the hazards of C8 until 2012, when it was forced by regulators to fund a comprehensive study that found probable links between C8 exposure and certain kinds of cancer.

PFOA is a synthetic perfluorinated carboxylic acid and fluorosurfactant that was used in the manufacture of Teflon as well as aqueous film-forming fire fighting foams.

This is among the first lawsuits to go to trial from around 3,500 other personal-injury lawsuits set up in 2013 that allege DuPont dumped the chemical into the Ohio River from its Washington Works plant near Parkersburg, West Virginia.

Last year a jury awarded $1.6 million in compensatory damages to kidney-cancer survivor Carla Bartlett who sued over the contamination.

In contrast with Bartlett’s purely compensatory damages, DuPont is today (7 July) also facing punitive damages after the jury found actual malice in the latest verdict – the first of the DuPont C8 trials to result in such damages for the plaintiff.

Chemours’ shares dropped more than 22% following the verdict yesterday (6 July), and DuPont’s declined by 1.8%. While DuPont is the named defendant, a recent spin-off of its performance chemicals segment, Chemours, will cover its liability. Chemours said that it will appeal the verdict.

The verdict has been welcomed by Keep Your Promises, a community-based organisation that is dedicated to holding DuPont to the promises it made to the people of the Greater Mid-Ohio Valley in connection with the C8 contamination.

KYP advisor Harold Bock commented: “We were in the courtroom watching the proceedings throughout the trial, and based on the evidence we saw presented, which detailed DuPont’s decades long cover up of the harms of C8 and the extent of contamination, we were certain that punitive damages would be awarded. This verdict vindicates all of us who have been fighting for DuPont to do the right thing, a fight that has lasted over a decade.

“Today’s verdict puts a spotlight on DuPont’s negligence and conscious disregard for the people of the mid-Ohio Valley. This verdict means that help is on the way for the thousands of residents waiting for their day in court, the dozens of communities in need of remediation, and the folks in the mid-Ohio Valley struggling to use the medical monitoring programme that has been mishandled by DuPont. To the extent that this is a signal of verdicts to come, this verdict alone will make the cost of DuPont’s C8 abuse skyrocket into billions of dollars, which so many residents and communities sorely need.”

From April 2017 the process to try a further 260 cancer suits will begin. These will be tried at the rate of 40 per year and judges are currently being recruited to try them in federal courthouses in Columbus, St. Clairsville, Ohio and Wheeling, West Virginia.

Over the last few years there have been increasing concerns by regulatory authorities over the environmental and human health impact of releasing PFOA – and longer chain perfluorocarboxylic acids (PFCAs) – to the environment based on unacceptable PBT (persistent, bio-accumulative, toxic) profiling.

This led first to the voluntary PFOA Stewardship Program 2010/2015 by the US Environment Protection Agency and, more recently, to the European Chemical Agency (ECHA) PFOA Restriction Proposal initiated by the German and Norwegian governments.

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