Legal challenges continue to plague DuPont Chemical in their quest to defend themselves against allegations that they have polluted rivers in Ohio and West Virginia through the release of Teflon chemicals into these waterways. C-8, a chemical substance used to make Teflon cookware non-sticky, was found to be toxic to humans as early as 1961, when studies began to report that C-8 could cause birth defects in unborn children. A continued study of C-8 revealed that it was also responsible for causing various cancers in humans. DuPont continued to use the substance for almost half a century after these studies, failing to disclose to regulators the possible effects of C-8. In addition, the company allowed C-8 to be dumped from its plants into water sources throughout Ohio and West Virginia, ultimately leading to over 3,500 health-related lawsuits. After years of discovery and ongoing litigation, several of these cases have made their way to juries and verdicts.
In an earlier case in Ohio, DuPont was found liable for negligence leading to a plaintiff’s kidney cancer. The jury awarded the woman $1.6 million in damages but found that DuPont had not acted with malice when it allowed the toxic chemical to enter water sources.
The newer case is decidedly more negative for DuPont. In this second case to go before a jury, a second Ohio victim sought compensation for damages incurred as a result of testicular cancer that he contended resulted from toxic contamination of waters in Ohio and West Virginia. After less than a day of deliberation, the jury returned a verdict of liability against DuPont in the amount of $5.1 million. The jury found that DuPont was negligent in allowing C-8 to enter the water stream, resulting in sickness and disease to others. Furthermore, unlike the first jury verdict against DuPont, the jurors also found that DuPont acted with actual malice, subjecting the company to the possibility of additional punitive damages. DuPont will now proceed to a second trial on the issue of the amount of punitive damages.
Currently, DuPont has an arrangement by which it is somewhat insulated from financial responsibility, since a spin-off of the company, Chemours, has agreed to bear the costs of any jury verdicts awarded during litigation. However, even Chemours has questioned whether this includes responsibility for punitive damages, or whether DuPont might be forced to take on these types of damages itself. Currently, DuPont faces countless more claims from other victims who claim to have contracted cancer and other illnesses as a result of drinking water contaminated with C-8.
These DuPont contamination cases are a constant reminder of both the power and the risks of personal injury litigation. DuPont has clearly taken several cases to trial as a means of testing the likelihood of liability findings from a jury, thus far with significant consequences. Whether it will continue to litigate or seek to settle future cases remains to be seen. While the plaintiffs in these cases also risk their time, energy, and money for the sake of seeking justice for their injuries, they have, so far, been largely rewarded for their efforts by sympathetic juries.
Personal injury cases against large corporations like DuPont can be exceedingly intimidating and complex. With the help of a skilled attorney, however, justice will often be on your side. If you or a loved one has been injured as a result of corporate 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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