Jury Finds DuPont Dioxins Not Liable for Child’s Death

June 12, 2007

A Jones County, Mississippi jury has rejected a couple’s claim that dioxins from the DuPont Co.’s plant on the Mississippi Gulf Coast were responsible for the death of their daughter.

The jury verdict came in a lawsuit filed by Kerman and Naomi Ladner of DeLisle, whose 8-year-old daughter, Haley, died in July 2000 of liver cancer. She also had heart problems, and, according to lawsuit, the Ladners claimed both conditions were caused by dioxins released from DuPont’s DeLisle plant.

The Ladners, who lived near the plant, had sought punitive damages of up to $30 million.

The DeLisle facility is the second-largest titanium dioxide maker in the country. Titanium dioxide is a white pigment used in paint, plastics, toothpaste and other products.

DuPont officials had said science doesn’t support the Ladners’ claims.

“We understand the Ladners have been through so much and we knew this would be an emotional trial,” said Mary Kate Campbell, a legal spokeswoman for DuPont. “But we’re glad the jurors were able to look past emotion and come to a conclusion based on the evidence.”

The case was the second of nearly 2,000 similar lawsuits to make it to trial.

In 2005, a Jones County jury awarded Bay St. Louis oysterman Glen Strong $14 million in damages after concluding dioxins from the DeLisle plant did cause his rare blood cancer. Strong’s wife, Connie, received $1.5 million for loss of “love and companionship.”

DuPont lawyers have appealed the Strong verdict to the Mississippi Supreme Court.

During Strong’s trial, DuPont called no expert witnesses in its defense. Hours before the trial began, the Supreme Court declined to hear the chemical giant’s appeal of a lower-court ruling that excluded nine DuPont witnesses from testifying.

In the Ladner trial, DuPont called several witnesses to rebut claims made by the plaintiffs.

The Jones County jury found that DuPont “negligently released dioxins and arsenic from the DeLisle facility” but did not link the release to the death of the Ladners’ daughter.

“We feel like it’s a good day for science because we were able to call experts who were some of the best in their fields,” said Deborah Kuchler, DuPont’s lead trial lawyer. “We feel like (the expert testimony) was very persuasive to the jury’s conclusion that there was no connection between DuPont’s operation and Haley Ladner’s illness.”

Plaintiff attorney Al Stewart, who led the Ladners’ legal team, was disappointed the jury could not find a connection between the released dioxins and the liver cancer that killed Haley.

“Another jury in Mississippi has found DuPont negligently releases dioxins and arsenic from its DeLisle facility,” he said. “While we are saddened by the jury’s remaining verdict, we feel vindicated by the undisputed fact that two separate juries have weighed in on DuPont’s conduct and found DuPont has failed to act responsibly.”


Information from: The Sun Herald, http://www.sunherald.com

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