A federal jury in Columbus, Ohio, has ordered DuPont to pay $2 million to Kenneth Vigneron, concluding exposure to a toxic chemical from the company's Parkersburg, West Virginia, plant caused his testicular cancer.
The jury awarded damages for negligence and found the company's conduct was malicious. A second phase of the trial will begin on Jan. 4 to determine punitive damages.
Dan Turner, a DuPont spokesman, said commenting on the jury's decision would "not be appropriate" until after the trial's second phase is complete.
Vigneron alleged his testicular cancer was linked to DuPont releasing C-8, a toxic chemical used in the manufacturing of Teflon, one of DuPont's most profitable products.
DuPont, a Wilmington-based chemical company, faces more than 3,500 lawsuits over release of the toxic chemical into the air, water and ground in the Mid-Ohio Valley region near Parkersburg. The News Journal documented DuPont's role in C-8 – also known as perfluorooctanoic acid or PFOA – contamination in the mid-Ohio Valley.
A Washington County, Ohio, resident, Vigneron lived only a few miles from the Parkersburg plant. He said his C-8 exposure came from drinking water in the Belpre and Little Hocking water districts that serve his county. Both Belpre and Little Hocking were found to have higher than normal levels of C-8 in their water systems, according to an Environmental Protection Agency study.
Attorneys representing DuPont argued the Wilmington chemical company was not aware the chemical was toxic or that it had leaked into the community.
Harry Deitzler, an attorney with Hill Peterson Carper Bee & Deitzler, a Charleston, West Virginia, firm, was among the lawyers representing Vigneron. He called DuPont's conduct "egregious."
"Hopefully, this verdict, along with the previous two verdicts, will send a strong message to DuPont and others who intentionally engage in this conduct which puts the health of our community at risk," he said.
Keep Your Promises, DuPont, an organization that advocates for Mid-Ohio Valley residents, applauded the jury's decision.
"For thousands of people in the Valley, it is too late for DuPont to undo the damage they caused with over half a century of pollution," said Harold Bock, a group member. "What DuPont can do is take responsibility and fulfill the promises they made to us over a decade ago. Today's verdict is a step in the right direction."
The Vigneron decision is the third straight loss for DuPont in C-8 trials. In October 2015, Carla Bartlett, a West Virginia resident who claimed C-8 exposure is responsible for her kidney cancer, was awarded $1.6 million in compensatory damages but did not receive any punitive damages. A separate jury earlier this year awarded David Freeman, another Washington County resident, $5.6 million in compensatory and punitive damages. Freeman had alleged C-8 was responsible for his cancer.
DuPont has appealed both the Freeman and Barrlett verdicts.
Bartlett and Freeman were two of six so-called bellwether cases. Three other bellwether cases have been settled for amounts DuPont called "immaterial" to its performance, according to Securities and Exchange Commission filing. A fourth case was withdrawn from the bellwether trial pool by plaintiffs, the company said.
Although DuPont is the defendant in each of the C-8 lawsuits, it could ask Chemours to reimburse it for any damages awarded by a court. An understanding that DuPont could require Chemours to cover potential damages was part of the agreement when Chemours spun off as an independent company last year.
Cynthia Salitsky, a Chemours spokeswoman, indicated an appeal of the Vigneron verdict is likely. She said the company will further comment once the Vigneron trial is over.
“Additional trials are expected, and they will be defended on an individual basis under the facts and circumstances of each case. This type of litigation typically takes place over many years, and interim results do not predict the final outcome of cases. It is important to note that DuPont is the named defendant in each of the cases and is liable for any judgment. We will have further comments when the trial is over.”
Originally Posted: delawareonline.com