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DuPont lawsuits (re PFOA pollution in USA)

Starting in 1998, mulitple lawsuits were filed in US courts against chemical company DuPont in relation to PFOA used to produce Teflon. Local farmers, residents and company workers claimed to have suffered illnesses linked to PFOA pollution from DuPont's Parkersburg plant in West Virginia. In one class action lawsuit settled in 2005, DuPont agreed to provide up to $235 million for medical monitoring of over 70,000 people. There have been numerous individual lawsuits from victims of PFOA-related diseases. In February 2017, DuPont settled over 3,550 lawsuits for $671 million.

DuPont is a manufacturer of the plastic material, Teflon, in Parkersburg, West Virginia, USA.  Teflon was, until 2013, produced with Perfluorooctanoic acid, or PFOA or C-8.  Studies have found that PFOA exposure is linked with several diseases.  Leaked internal company documents revealed that DuPont knew about the dangers of PFOA as far back as 1961, and knew in 1984 that the chemical was present in the local water supply and being emitted in dust from the factory chimneys, yet did not disclose this to workers or the surrounding public.  According to a 2004 study by an industry risk assessor hired by DuPont, the plant dumped and emitted over 1.7 million pounds of PFOA between 1951 and 2003.

The drinking water supply of Parkersburg was polluted with PFOA by DuPont chemical company.

People who worked in the factory, families living in the local area, or communities living down river affected by water pollution, all claiming to have illnesses linked to PFOA pollution, filed numerous lawsuits against DuPont.  A local family sued DuPont in 1998 over loss of cattle allegedly due to the pollution from the nearby PFOA sludge laden landfill.  This lawsuit was settled in 2001 for an undisclosed sum.  The information about PFOA uncovered in this lawsuit led to a class action in 2001 filed by the same attorney on behalf of 80,000 people living in districts whereby PFOA had leaked into the water supply.  This class action was settled in 2005, with DuPont agreeing to provide up to $235 million for medical monitoring for over 70,000 people living in six water districts around the plant in Parkersburg.

By 2014, there was a growing number of individual lawsuits against DuPont for PFOA related diseases, and six plaintiffs were selected for test cases, to demonstrate how the others would fare.  By 2015, there were approximately 3,500 pending lawsuits.  In the first case, a jury ruled that DuPont was responsible for the kidney cancer of a plaintiff and ordered the company to pay $1.6 million in compensatory damages.  In the second, a jury found that DuPont acted with malice and ordered the company to pay $5.6 million in punitive damages and compensatory damages.  Between 2014 and 2016, three other cases were settled for undisclosed amounts, and the fourth was withdrawn from the test case pool by the plaintiff. 

In February 2017, DuPont settled over 3,550 PFOA lawsuits for $671 million but denied any wrongdoing. 

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6 March 2020

USA: DuPont requests mistrial in lawsuit awarding couple $50 million for cancer caused by company's water pollution

Author: Sebastien Malo, Reuters

"DuPont seeks mistrial after Ohio jury awards couple $50 mln in 'forever chemical' lawsuit," 4 March 2020

E.I. du Pont de Nemours and Company has asked an Ohio federal court to declare a mistrial after a jury awarded $50 million to a testicular cancer survivor and his wife who claimed that the illness was linked to the company’s contamination of their drinking water with a chemical the company used at one of its manufacturing plants despite knowing it was hazardous.

The company, in a renewed motion for mistrial Tuesday in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Ohio, argued that the court’s instructions to the initially deadlocked jury had coerced it into finding that DuPont’s negligent use of perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) at its plant was the cause of the plaintiff’s cancer.

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2 December 2019

USA: Ohio Judge rules DuPont cannot relitigate claims decided in previous trials in lawsuit over company's alleged responsibility in water contamination & links to health issues

Author: Ellen M. Gilmer, Bloomberg Environment

"PFAS Plaintiffs Score Partial Win Over DuPont in Ohio Litigation," 26 Nov 2019

DuPont can’t relitigate a set of claims from Ohio and West Virginia residents who say PFAS from a manufacturing facility contaminated their water, and caused cancer and other diseases.

The U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Ohio sided with plaintiffs on several arguments in the sprawling multidistrict litigation that traces its roots back nearly 20 years.

At issue is E.I. du Pont de Nemours & Co.'s Washington Works manufacturing facility along the Ohio River. DuPont has acknowledged that the site—now run by spinoff The Chemours Co.—discharged perfluorooctanoic acid, or PFOA, into the water, air, and unlined landfills.

Judge Edmund A. Sargus Jr. granted the residents’ request to block DuPont from defending against claims that were decided in previous trials, including arguments that the company’s release of PFOA amounted to negligence...

The individuals still have to support their specific claims by proving they were exposed to PFOA-contaminated water at a particular time, for an extended period, and in a particular area.

“We are disappointed in the ruling and are reviewing our options as this matter proceeds,” a DuPont spokesman said in a Nov. 26 statement. Company lawyers previously argued that the plaintiffs’ request would deprive the company of its “fundamental right to defend itself.”...

The Ohio litigation builds upon a landmark class-action settlement in 2004 that established a court-approved scientific panel to determine what types of ailments are likely linked to PFOA exposure.

The panel found a “probable link” to kidney cancer, testicular cancer, thyroid disease, ulcerative colitis, diagnosed high cholesterol, and pregnancy-induced hypertension and preeclampsia. The cases now pending in Ohio include personal injury claims from alleged members of the original class action who have those diseases.

After a series of jury verdicts for plaintiffs and an abandoned appeal, DuPont settled more than 3,000 cases in 2017. Dozens of similar lawsuits have cropped up since then, with the first set for trial in January.

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30 April 2018

DuPont: Lawsuit over discharges into Cape Fear River 'rests on a mistaken premise'

Author: John Breslin, Legal News Line (USA)

A major chemical company has filed a motion asking a federal court to dismiss a lawsuit claiming it polluted a North Carolina river, causing sickness and property damage to those living near its banks.  E. I. Du Pont De Nemours and Co., commonly known as DuPont, and The Chemours Co. FC LLC, are alleged to have discharged chemicals into the Cape Fear River and failed to disclose it.  A number of individuals who live near the river filed suit last year on their behalf and on behalf of others.  This is one of a number of lawsuits DuPoint is facing over the alleged discharge of perfluorinated or polyflourinated compounds (PFCs)...DuPont...filed a motion to dismiss March 2 with the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of North Carolina.  The motion argues that the class action complaint "rests on a mistaken premise: the premise that any discharge of chemicals into the environment creates tort liability. To be actionable, however, a discharge of chemicals must cause the plaintiff to suffer actual harm," the company states...The company further argues that the complaint claims three of the four plaintiffs have physical ailments but do not allege that GenX or another chemical discharge caused those ailments.  In their April 13 motion arguing against the dismissal, those ailments are detailed...

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13 February 2017

USA: DuPont settles 3550 claims over illnesses linked to pollution for $671 million

Author: Arathy S Nair, Reuters (USA)

"DuPont settles lawsuits over Teflon-making chemical leak", 13 Feb 2017

DuPont and Chemours Co said on Monday they had agreed to pay about $671 million in cash to settle several lawsuits related to the leak of a toxic chemical, used to make Teflon, that has been linked to cancer and other diseases.  The company said it settled about 3,550 personal injury claims arising from the leak of perfluorooctanoic acid...The leak allegedly contaminated local water supplies and has been linked to six diseases...Both companies denied any wrongdoing.  "We look forward to working with DuPont to finalize this settlement and get these injured class members paid as quickly as possible," Rob Bilott, a lawyer for the plaintiffs, said in a statement...In 2001, residents brought a class action against DuPont over C-8 exposure. The company agreed in 2004 to fund medical monitoring programs and install new water treatment systems...Members of the class action lawsuit, suffering from one of the diseases, then individually sued DuPont.  The company agreed not to challenge whether C-8 can cause those diseases, but plaintiffs still must prove it is to blame for their individual illnesses...[Also refers to Dow Chemical]

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5 January 2017

USA: Jury orders DuPont to pay $10.5 million to man with cancer caused by toxic chemical pollution

Author: Earl Rinehart, The Columbus Dispatch (USA)

"Jury awards $10.5 million in punitive damages in DuPont cancer case", 5 Jan 2017

Jurors who awarded a man $10.5 million in punitive damages Thursday morning apparently heeded his attorney’s call to punish DuPont for causing his cancer...The company must also pay attorney fees...The jury found last month that the chemical company tainted Ohio River Valley water sources with C8, a chemical used to make...Teflon product, and waited decades to reveal it could cause cancer.  They awarded Vigneron, a 56-year-old truck driver, $2 million in compensatory damages.  They also found that the company acted maliciously, with a conscious disregard for safety, meaning...man was eligible for punitive damages...Thursday's was the largest punitive damages award of the three trials heard so far in Columbus...U.S. Chief District Judge Edmund A. Sargus Jr. heard the three C8 cases and will preside at the next one...beginning Jan. 17.  In May, several judges will hear C8 cases in Ohio, Kentucky and West Virginia...

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21 December 2016

USA: New Jersey town sues DuPont for $1.1 billion alleging toxic waste pollution causes cancer

Author: Nick Rummel, Courthouse News Service (USA)

"Polluted New Jersey Town Sues DuPont for $1.1 Billion", 20 Dec 2016

A small town in New Jersey has sued DuPont for $1.1 billion, claiming it dumped more than 100 million lbs. of toxic waste into soil and water near the Delaware River, “a disaster worse than Exxon Valdez” that will take 1,000 years to clean up...The site has been linked to cancer clusters in the area...Thousands of New Jersey residents have sued DuPont for contaminating their drinking water at the site.  One such case was settled in 1993 for almost $40 million.  DuPont did not admit liability.  DuPont settled related two class-actions in 2011 that reportedly boiled down to paying $800 per household or an in-home water filtration system...DuPont transferred the Chambers Works Site deed, and its performance chemicals division, to a spinoff company called Chemours in July 2015.  The transfer dumped $4 billion of DuPont’s debt and most of its environmental liabilities to Chemours, according to the lawsuit. Carneys Point calls the spinoff an attempt to duck liability...If the proposed $130 billion DuPont-Dow merger is completed, Carneys Point says, Chemours will likely go bankrupt, leaving the Chambers Work Site an abandoned, toxic orphan...DuPont spokesman Dan Turner declined to comment on the lawsuit...

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18 July 2016

An Update On The DuPont Chemical Federal Lawsuit Filed By Local Attorney Robert Bilott

Author: Mark Heyne, WVXU.org (USA)

Local attorney Robert Bilott, whose story has made national headlines, took on a high-profile case against the DuPont chemical company.  He filed a federal suit against DuPont in 1999, in West Virginia. He exposed that DuPont had operated above the Environmental Protection Agency for decades, intentionally hiding the dangers of Teflon and the chemical PFOA (C8), to which people have been exposed. Recently, the jury ordered DuPont to pay $500,000 in punitive damages to an Ohio man who got cancer from exposure to a toxic chemical produced by DuPont's West Virginia plant.

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12 July 2016

USA: Jury in DuPont lawsuit orders company to pay $500,000 in punitive damages for carcinogenic chemical exposure

Author: Jessica Dye, Reuters (USA)

"DuPont must pay extra $500,000 in lawsuit over Teflon-making chemical", 8 Jul 2016

U.S. jurors ordered DuPont on Friday to pay an additional $500,000 in punitive damages to a man who said he developed testicular cancer from exposure to a toxic chemical used to make Teflon at one of its plants, according to a lawyer for the plaintiff.

The same jury in Ohio federal court had awarded $5.1 million in compensatory damages on Wednesday to 57-year-old plaintiff David Freeman.

It is the second trial in which a jury has found DuPont liable for claims involving exposure to perfluorooctanoic acid...and it is the first time a jury has found that the company’s “actual malice” warranted an award of punitive damages...

...A first trial ended last year with an award of $1.6 million in compensatory damages to a woman who had kidney cancer, and no punitive damages. The federal judge overseeing the litigation has ordered DuPont to prepare for 40 trials a year starting in April 2017 for plaintiffs with cancers blamed on C-8 exposure...


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21 January 2016

USA: Lawyer "became DuPont's worst nightmare" by uncovering toxic pollution, seeking to hold it accountable

Author: Nathaniel Rich, New York Times Magazine (USA)

"The Lawyer Who Became DuPont’s Worst Nightmare", 6 Jan. 2016

...Wilbur Tennant...said that his cows were dying left and right. He believed that...DuPont...was responsible. Tennant had tried to seek help locally, he said, but DuPont just about owned the entire town. He had been spurned not only by Parkersburg’s lawyers but also by its politicians, journalists, doctors and veterinarians... [Rob] Bilott...[of Taft Stettinius & Hollister, which had a large practice defending companies from environmental claims] filed a federal suit against DuPont in...1999 [over environmental impacts on Tennant's farm]...

...Bilott [obtained a court order forcing] DuPont to share all documentation related to [PFOA, or perfluorooctanoic acid]...[and received dozens] of boxes containing thousands of unorganized documents... The story that Bilott [found in the documents]...was astounding in its breadth, specificity and sheer brazenness... ...[Although] DuPont’s own instructions specified that it was not to be flushed into surface water or sewers...[for decades] DuPont pumped hundreds of thousands of pounds of PFOA powder...into the Ohio River...[and] dumped 7,100 tons of PFOA-laced sludge into...pits...from which the chemical could seep straight into the ground...

[Refers to various scientific findings by DuPont on PFOA's health effects, including its role in causing cancer, and dispersion, which DuPont did not disclose to environmental regulators or to the public.]  [Bilott said] ‘‘...DuPont…knew this stuff was harmful, and they put it in the water anyway...’’ ...What was [PFOA] doing to the tens of thousands of people in the areas around Parkersburg [West Virginia] who drank it daily from their taps?

...[In 2000-01, Bilott drafted] a public brief against DuPont...[demanding] immediate action to regulate PFOA and provide clean water to those living near the factory... Harry Deitzler, a plaintiff’s lawyer in West Virginia...[said] ‘‘Before that letter, corporations could rely upon the public misperception that if a chemical was dangerous, it was regulated.’’... The letter led, four years later,...to DuPont’s reaching a $16.5 million settlement... The fine represented less than 2 percent of the profits earned by DuPont on PFOA that year.

...In September 2004, DuPont decided to settle [a class-action lawsuit by Bilott on behalf of those whose water was tainted by PFOA]... It agreed to install filtration plants…[and to] fund a scientific study to determine whether there was a ‘‘probable link’’...between PFOA and any diseases... In December 2011, after seven years, the scientists…[found] a ‘‘probable link’’ between PFOA and kidney cancer, testicular cancer [and other diseases]...

As of October, 3,535 plaintiffs have filed personal-injury lawsuits against DuPont. [In the] first....[verdict, in October 2015,] a kidney-cancer survivor named Carla...Bartlett was awarded $1.6 million. DuPont plans to appeal...

DuPont, which is currently negotiating a merger with Dow Chemical, last year...[spun off] its chemical businesses...into a new corporation called Chemours....[which] has replaced PFOA with similar…compounds designed to biodegrade more quickly... Like PFOA, these new substances have not come under any regulation from the E.P.A. ...Chemours [says]...: ‘‘A significant body of data demonstrates that these alternative chemistries can be used safely.’’ 

Last May, 200 scientists…signed the Madrid Statement, which expresses concern about the production of all fluorochemicals, or PFASs, including those that have replaced PFOA... DuPont’s head of global media relations, wrote…: ‘‘DuPont does not believe the Madrid Statement reflects a true consideration of the available data... DuPont worked for more than a decade, with oversight from regulators, to introduce its alternatives. Extensive data has been developed, demonstrating that these alternatives are much more rapidly eliminated from the body than PFOA, and have improved health safety profiles...’’

[also refers to 3M]

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31 August 2015

USA: DuPont Teflon plant poisoned nearby farms, water supplies & caused birth defects - firm has settled related lawsuits

Author: Mariah Blake, Huffington Post Highline (USA)

"Welcome to Beautiful Parkersburg, West Virginia", 27 August 2015

Parkersburg, West Virginia - credit: Emily Kassie - Huffington Post Highline...[In] the mid-1990s, the water in the creek [on the Tennant family farm near a landfill they had sold to DuPont] turned black and foamy... The cattle started going blind, sprouting tumors.. Family members were being hospitalized...

The [current US]...regulatory regime...is remarkably laissez-faire. Only a handful of the 80,000-plus chemicals on the market have ever been tested for safety...

In March 1981...a pathologist and a birth defects expert [sent by DuPont to investigate health impacts on factory workers]...concluded that...“the observed fetal eye defects were due to C8,” [a chemical made by 3M and used by DuPont]... 

The...data [gathered in a secret DuPont study] showed...a “statistically significant” increase...[in the] birth-defect rate... Rather than informing regulators or employees, DuPont quietly abandoned the pregnancy study... DuPont continued its clandestine testing...and this yielded more troubling revelations... DuPont didn’t inform its workers of these developments, much less take additional safety precautions...

[In 1984] DuPont executives...discussed recently adopted plans to cut C8 emissions...such as adding scrubbers to vents that spewed the chemical into the air. But they decided to scrap these initiatives. The additional expense was not “justified,” the executives concluded, since it wouldn’t substantially reduce the company’s liability...

After discovering C8 in Lubeck’s water supply in the early 1980s,...DuPont bought [Lubeck's] well field...[and] built Lubeck a new well field... But it soon discovered that the new wells were contaminated, too. Rather than notify the EPA, as the law required, DuPont devised a testing method that grossly underestimated C8 levels...

Despite all this [up to $374 million in costs to settle the class-action lawsuit], it was far from clear that DuPont would be held accountable...

When the C8 Science Panel [conducted by local experts using funds from the settlement]...released its findings...it found a “probable link” between the chemical and six conditions...[most of them] life-threatening... 

DuPont declined to answer questions for this story because of the pending individual liability litigation. But it issued a statement which read, in part: “DuPont has met and will continue to meet its obligations under the [settlement], including the provision of medical monitoring for local residents and water filtration systems in six area water districts … DuPont and Chemours remain committed to fulfilling all of their environmental and legal obligations in accordance with existing local, state and federal regulatory guidelines.”

Last year, the company finally phased out C8...[But] DuPont has simply turned to other closely related substances, such as perfluorohexanoic acid, or C6... DuPont is not required to ensure that these chemicals are free of the qualities that made C8 so toxic.

[With videos of birth defects to children of women working in DuPont Washington Works plant producing Teflon products; testimony from DuPont worker, residents of farm polluted by DuPont.  Includes internal DuPont documents.

Also refers to Hill & Knowlton, Weinberg Group, Feinberg Rozen, Chemours (formerly part of DuPont), Zonyl (product made by DuPont).]

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