New PFAS toxic chemical injury cases against DuPont being tried in Columbus federal court
By Beth Burger | The Columbus Dispatch | February 12, 2020
Read the full article by Beth Burger (The Columbus Dispatch)
“Thousands of people were awarded millions of dollars from DuPont de Nemours, Inc. in a settlement after their drinking water was contaminated. However, now about 60 people who have since developed testicular and kidney cancers are suing the company in hopes of getting compensation. Those trials are all playing out in a federal courtroom in Columbus.
At 16, Travis Abbott remembers basketball teammates noticing his swollen left testicle in the locker room.
After the jeers, he returned home and bravely told his mom, ‘I think something is wrong with me.’
The Meigs County teen would end up going to Nationwide Children’s Hospital in Columbus to have two invasive surgeries, including the removal of his left testicle for cancer.
‘Unfortunately, this was just the start of Travis’ ordeal,’ Jon C. Conlin, an attorney at Cory Watson, a Birmingham, Alabama, law firm, told jurors during opening statements earlier this month in federal court in Columbus.
Abbott lives downstream along the Ohio River from DuPont de Nemours Inc.’s Washington Works plant in West Virginia.
Now 42, he is one of about 60 new plaintiffs suing the company in individual personal-injury cases in hopes the company will compensate them.
For years, DuPont discharged toxic chemicals known as PFAS — perperfluoroalkyl and polyfluoroalkyl substances — into the water, leading to Abbott’s cancer, attorneys allege in a personal-injury case in federal court.
The man-made, harmful chemicals stay in the body for decades, earning them the name ‘forever chemicals.’
In 1961, DuPont knew the chemical C-8 or PFOA was toxic, according to court records. In 1993, company records showed they could not guarantee a safe level.
Some one drinking water with .05 parts per billion of PFOA for a year or more is more likely than not to get testicular or kidney cancer, thyroid disease, ulcerative colitis, high cholesterol and preeclampsia, a condition that can cause organ damage in pregnant women, according to court-appointed researchers.
That’s less than one drop of the chemical in an Olympic-size swimming pool, the plaintiffs argue.
At least .0164 parts per billion of nine different forever chemicals were recently found in Columbus’ drinking water, including PFOA at .0024 parts per billion, according to water testing provided by a nonpartisan nonprofit, the Environmental Working Group.
‘DuPont did not, and still does not, dispute that from its Washington Works facility DuPont discharged C-8 (PFOA) into the water, air, and unlined landfills around the facility,’ according to court records.
The lawsuits trace back to 80,000 residents in Ohio and West Virginia who drank water directly contaminated by DuPont. The original cases date to about 20 years ago across state lines in West Virginia, where a class-action suit was formed to get an epidemiological study. Thousands of residents gave blood and their medical histories for the study.
‘They would monitor for those things, but there was no money award for you if you had an injury,’ Conlin told The Dispatch. ‘To do that, you have to go and sue DuPont individually. DuPont gets to defend it and say, ‘It’s not our fault.’ That’s why we’re here.’
Personal-injury cases cannot be grouped as a class-action lawsuit.
Previously, there were lawsuits involving 3,500 people seeking damages for illnesses.
Those cases began more than six years ago in Columbus, according to court records, “requiring two years of supplementary court staffing, docket entries exceeding 5,200 filings, including more than 450 decisions from the court, four month-long jury trials with three trials going to verdicts all in favor of the plaintiffs — with nearly $9 million in liability damage awards on negligence claims and $11 million in punitive damage awards.”
A fourth case that was going to trial, involving a man suffering from testicular cancer, began in 2017, but DuPont decided to settle all the pending cases involving more than 3,500 victims for $670.7 million.
‘Because of the nature of cancers, people continue to get diagnosed, and so these (latest) cases … are ones primarily where the diagnosis was made after that’ settlement, Conlin said.
The company could choose to settle this batch of cases but has chosen to fight each case in court.
‘As anticipated by DuPont, the C-8 litigation did not end with the global settlement,’ according to court records.
Chemours Co., a spinoff of DuPont which now owns the Washington Works plant, declined to comment, citing the ongoing litigation. Attorneys for the company also declined comment.
Damond R. Mace, an attorney with Squire Patton Boggs in Columbus representing DuPont, used examples involving water, salt, caffeine, sugar and aspirin when talking about PFOA with the jury. PFOA, which was purchased from 3M and used by DuPont to make nonstick Teflon cookware and water-resistant fabrics, had useful purposes, he said.
‘Any of these things could kill you,’ Mace said of the ordinary items. ‘You take one (aspirin), it may not do anything. You take the whole bottle, it will kill you. … Put yourself in the shoes of DuPont. Think of cutting it into one million pieces.’
Even a billion pieces, he said.
‘You’re going to have to consider if DuPont believed such a little amount of C-8 could harm 40 miles away,’ he told the jury during opening arguments.
The trial, which began in January, is expected to take about six weeks, and it continues to unfold in a federal courtroom in Columbus.
For each trial, each side has spent approximately $6 million on legal fees and more than $1 million in court costs, court documents show…”
This content provided by the PFAS Project.