A federal jury in Ohio returned a verdict on October 7 in a lawsuit against the DuPont Company, finding DuPont responsible for leaking the toxic chemical, C8, into the water supply around its West Virginia plant.
DuPont will have to pay $1.6 million to Carla Bartlett for negligence and emotional distress, stemming from the kidney cancer she developed in 1997 after drinking C8 contaminated water. Carla Bartlett’s case was the first of more than 3,500 separate personal injury and wrongful death suits against DuPont for C8 contamination from the company’s Washington Works plant in Parkersburg, West Virginia.
Wednesday’s verdict is a major victory for the plaintiffs in these other cases, and it indicates the direction in which many of these cases should proceed. Two of Ms. Bartlett’s attorneys successfully argued in the trial that DuPont decisions (on multiple occasions) to ignore the health dangers of C8 directly caused their client’s kidney cancer.
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Hundreds of documents brought up during the trial, including internal DuPont memos, show that the company knew for decades about the potentially fatal health risks, including the carcinogenic properties, posed by C8 while the company nevertheless continued to improperly dispose of the chemical into unlined ponds and landfills, as well as directly into the Ohio River and the air.
In 2001, a group of individuals filed a complaint in West Virginia state court over C8 contamination of the area water supply. The court established in 2002 a mandatory class of roughly 80,000 residents whose water supply was exposed to C8 from the Washington Works plant. The class-action lawsuit was settled in 2004, with the court approving a final settlement agreement in early 2005 that created a procedure to establish whether class members could file suit against DuPont for health problems allegedly caused by exposure to C8.
In 2012, the C8 Science Panel delivered its final report on six diseases caused by C8 at exposure levels found in the affected areas. These six diseases are:
- Testicular cancer
- Kidney cancer
- Thyroid disease
- High cholesterol
- Ulcerative colitis – a form of bowel disease
- Pregnancy-induced hypertension – which may cause seizures, kidney failure, miscarriage, and birth defects
Following the release of the panel’s findings, plaintiffs with diseases linked by the report to C8 exposure began filing claims against DuPont; the lawsuits were centralized into multi-district litigation in 2013.
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While DuPont has been forced to admit the linkage between C8 and certain health problems in these most recent lawsuits, they have largely continued – as they have before – to try to dodge responsibility. In Carla Bartlett’s case, DuPont’s attorneys maintained that C8 exposure was not the cause of her particular case of cancer.
One of Ms. Bartlett’s attorneys has compared DuPont’s behavior to that of the asbestos, DDT, and tobacco industries, “You string out the public as long as you can,” he said. “This company made sure nobody connected the dots.”
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Presiding over the case, U.S. District Judge Edmund Sargus, Jr. denied on October 1 a motion by DuPont to block the jury’s ability to consider punitive damages against the company. The jury did not, however, apply punitive damages in its $1.6 million judgment against DuPont, and instead determined that this total was entirely compensatory in nature.
Wednesday was a good day for Carla Bartlett and the other victims of DuPont’s years of irresponsible actions.
Jon C. Conlin, the Cory Watson attorney leading up this firm’s litigation team and Co-lead counsel for the entire coordinated MDL litigation, says that the truth is finally coming to light.
“This was the first jury in the country that was able to finally hear what DuPont had done” said Conlin. “We are thankful to the jury for patiently and diligently listening to all the evidence before rightfully deciding DuPont should finally be held accountable for all Ms. Bartlett has had to suffer related to her C8 exposure and the kidney cancer it caused. We are confident that this verdict will be repeated in the trials to come.”
The next C8 of the bellwethers trials is currently set to begin just after Thanksgiving, in November 2015.
If you or someone you care about suffered toxic exposure to C8, the experienced lawyers at Cory Watson Attorneys are ready to fight for you. Call at (877) 562-0000 or fill out Free Case Evaluation form on this page.