A Louisiana federal judge recently nullified a verdict in favor of DuPont Co. because the worldwide chemical giant withheld evidence. The suit stems from whistleblower claims in a False Claims Act suit that DuPont Co. did not tell federal regulators about certain leaks of cancer causing chemicals at of one of its plants. In her opinion, Judge Shelly D. Dick, determined that newly discovered leak calculations and a November 2014 Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) Citation were called for in discovery, but DuPont failed to produce them.
Judge Dick’s opinion states, “The court further concludes that the unavailability of this evidence impacted the integrity of the trial process and prevented [former DuPont safety operator Jeffery M. Simoneux] from fully and fairly presenting his case.” Although the Judge was unable to state that the verdict would have been different, she did state the verdict cannot stand because “the court is unable to meaningfully evaluate the weight and persuasiveness” of this relevant evidence.
This is not the first time DuPont has faced claims that it misled regulators and the public. In two trials scheduled for later this year, Plaintiffs allege DuPont knew as early as 1961 that C-8 (perfluorooctanate), a chemical used in DuPont’s manufacturing operations, was toxic and should be handled with care. By 1979, it is alleged that DuPont was in possession of data suggesting its workers exposed to C-8 were at a significantly higher risk for adverse health problems. The next year, according to the filed complaints, DuPont internally confirmed that C-8 is toxic and continued exposure is not tolerable. The complaint sites a 1981 pregnancy study conducted by DuPont noting birth defects in plant workers at “a significantly higher rate than a national rate . . . [and] also significantly higher than a plant rate.” Per the complaints, DuPont secretly obtained water samples for internal testing without notifying the community.
DuPont has faced several other similar allegations of misconduct. In 2001, plaintiffs filed a class action, Leach, et al. v. E.I. DuPont de Nemours and Co. alleging DuPont concealed knowledge of the residents’ exposure to cancer causing chemicals. In the Leach case DuPont settled the claims for $70 million and was required to set up a health monitoring system for exposed residents. In another case, the Little Hocking Water District sued DuPont for its alleged contamination of the Little Hocking water supply
Even with knowledge that C-8 was present in local water supplies around the plant, DuPont actively worked to conceal the exposure risks. The plaintiffs in the upcoming trials, scheduled to begin in September and November of 2015, allege exposure to C-8 in drinking water, and DuPont’s concealment of the risks, caused their kidney cancer and ulcerative colitis.