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2 Dec 2019

Ellen M. Gilmer, Bloomberg Environment

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

"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.