On Wednesday, the jury which in December awarded $2 million in compensatory damages to Mr. Kenneth Vigneron heard arguments by Vigneron’s attorneys about why E.I. du Pont de Nemours and Company should be punished further for its decades of knowingly releasing the chemical C8 into the Ohio River. The jury had previously determined that DuPont acted with malice or a “conscious disregard for the right and safety of other persons that has a great probability of causing harm.” This determination led to the punitive damage phase of the trial which occurred this week.
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The jury was presented with evidence of DuPont’s financials including evidence that DuPont has $7.9 billion in unused credit lines, $4.5 billion in cash on hand, and $6.4 billion in treasury stocks owned by DuPont, totaling $18.8 billion available to pay a punitive damages award.
On direct examination, the financial expert for Vigneron testified that, based on DuPont’s reported 2015 annual revenue, the company generates an average of $68.8 million a day. Vigneron’s attorneys characterized this as equating the jury’s $2 million compensatory damages verdict to “42 minutes” of DuPont’s revenue generation.
During closing arguments, Plaintiff’s counsel urged the jury to punish DuPont explaining, “[i]t’s important to punish, to end this corrupt corporate mentality.” DuPont’s attorneys countered by asking the jury to return a punitive damages verdict of $0.
Yesterday, the jury sent DuPont a strong message and agreed with Plaintiff by returning a punitive damages verdict of $10.5 million plus attorney’s fees.
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This is the third trial against DuPont concerning the toxic chemical, C8, which the corporation knowingly dumped into the Ohio River and local landfills since the 1950’s. Combined with the first two trials won against DuPont, the corporation has now been ordered by juries to pay out $8.7 million in compensatory damages to three plaintiffs. This latest award brings the total punitive damages to date to $11 million (plus attorneys’ fees) for a total jury award of over $19.7 million.
This is just the start with over 3,500 C8 cases still pending against DuPont. The next trial is scheduled to begin on January 17th.