DuPont Chemical has been in the news recently, and not for good reasons. The chemical and manufacturing giant is currently litigating several class action personal injury cases related to its alleged dumping of toxic chemicals into the water that West Virginians and Ohioans drank on a regular basis. In a case filed in the Southern District of West Virginia, John Wolf is one of several thousand plaintiffs, 3,535 to be exact, who is seeking compensation for injuries that he alleges that he suffered as a result of drinking water contaminated by DuPont. Mr. Wolf’s case, which is set to go to trial in March, could have significant ramifications for other plaintiffs seeking compensation from DuPont in courts across West Virginia and Ohio.
As recently recounted in a profile by the New York Times, DuPont Chemical is the subject of litigation and media scrutiny for its disposal of the chemical perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA). PFOA is a substance used in manufacturing Teflon. It is toxic when consumed and must be disposed of very carefully. Specifically, DuPont was required to dispose of PFOA by either incinerating it or sending it to professional chemical-waste facilities. Between 1951 and the early 2000s, DuPont did neither, instead disposing of the substance by dumping it in chemical pits, where it allegedly seeped into local water sources, or by dumping it into the Ohio River. The plaintiffs suing DuPont now allege that despite increasing awareness of the toxic impact that PFOA would have on those who consumed it, the company failed to change its PFOA disposal practices.
In October of this past year, DuPont was found liable for personal injuries to a plaintiff in the Southern District of Ohio. The jury found that the company was liable for emotional infliction of distress and negligence that resulted in the plaintiff’s kidney cancer due to toxicity from PFOA. However, the jury fell short of finding that DuPont had acted maliciously in how it handled PFOA. In total, the plaintiff was awarded $1.6 million in damages.
DuPont now faces another round of legal battles here in West Virginia, where plaintiff John Wolf is alleging that the PFOA that DuPont disposed of contaminated his drinking water and led to his ulcerative colitis diagnosis. Wolf has alleged numerous personal injury claims against DuPont, including negligence, concealment and fraud, strict product liability, and negligent and intentional infliction of emotional distress, among others. Additionally, as a result of DuPont’s allegedly intentional and malicious actions, Wolf also seeks punitive damages against the company. It is anticipated that Wolf’s case, like the first case in the Southern District of Ohio, will be a “bellweather” case for DuPont, used to determine whether the company will continue to litigate these PFOA personal injury claims, or if it will attempt to settle with the 3,000+ plaintiffs currently in line for a chance in the courtroom. The ultimate outcome remains to be seen.
Personal injury claims can arise out of small events such as a slip and fall, or from larger social and environmental issues, such as poisoning in the water. When dealing with a potential personal injury claim against a substantial corporate defendant, it is imperative that you seek knowledgeable and trusted legal counsel. If you or a loved one has been injured as a result of another’s negligence, the Wolfe Law Firm can help. Our West Virginia personal injury lawyers have been serving clients throughout the state for more than 25 years. Located in Elkins, West Virginia, the firm represents clients in a wide range of injury, criminal defense, and bankruptcy matters. Call us at 1-877-637-5756 or contact us online for a free consultation.
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