A federal jury said Wednesday DuPont should pay both compensatory and punitive damages for dumping into the Ohio River one of its chemicals used in the production of Teflon. The case involves a man who blames those actions for his testicular cancer.
The chemical is known as C8 and it is linked to a handful of cancers. There are more than 3,500 pending. The compensatory verdict was for $2 million and the hearing to determine the punitive award is set for for next month.
“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,” says Cynthia Salitsky, Chemours Spokesperson.
DuPont subsequently spun off its chemical division into a company called Chemours that is supposed to be free from those liabilities that DuPont may suffer as a result of this case.
The case, heard in the US District Court in Columbus, is one of a handful selected by all sides as test cases to try and determine the extent to which DuPont may be liable. In July, a federal jury awarded $5.6 billion in compensatory damages and $500,000 in punitive damages to a different man who blamed the chemical agent for his testicular cancer. In October 2015, an Ohio woman got $1.6 million in compensatory awards for her kidney cancer but she got no punitive damages. DuPont is appealing that one.
Lawyers for the plaintiffs have argued that while DuPont first learned of the harmful effects of C8 in the 1960s, it did not inform the citizens of Ohio and West Virginia of those until 2012. They add that DuPont did know that the C8 led to certain cancers as early as 1988. It was then that its own scientists had run tests on rats and found that it produced a “slight” but “statistically significant” increase in the odds of getting testicular cancer.
DuPont, conversely, argued that it put in place safeguards to capture and isolate the C8 compound — and that it cannot be definitively and directly linked to the cancers for which DuPont is now accused.
The case decided Wednesday is the third of six so-called bellwether cases – three from the plaintiffs and three from the defense — to try and resolve what will happen to the remaining 3,500 law suits.
A lawyer who had once represented DuPont told this writer that the company absolutely does not believe there is a connection between C8 and the cancers. In fact, C8 is in nearly every human, in negligible amounts. Where DuPont “screwed up,” the lawyer adds, is that it had agreed to let a panel of independent scientists draw conclusions based on “statistics” and not “science.”
DuPont was first sued over this issue in 2001. As part of a settlement that occurred in 2005, both sides agreed that the C8 chemical would be studied by three scientists. Beginning in 2011 and throughout 2012, those experts concluded that C8 was “more likely than not” to cause such conditions as ulcerative colitis, kidney cancer, thyroid disease and testicular cancer.
For example, the attorney says that the scientists concluded that there is a link between C8 and high cholesterol. But yet, it found no connection between C8 and heart disease.