W. Va. Jury Orders DuPont to Provide Medical Monitoring for 40 Years

October 12, 2007

DuPont Co. must provide medical monitoring for about 7,000 West Virginia residents who were exposed to arsenic, cadmium and lead contamination from a waste site at a former Harrison County smelter, a jury said Wednesday.

The verdict came in the second phase of the trial of a class-action lawsuit filed by 10 residents of Spelter, W. Va., who accused DuPont of deliberately dumping dangerous heavy metals on an industrial site there.

The jury found that DuPont must finance medical monitoring for the next 40 years, said Mike Papantonio, who represents the residents.

“This provides some security for families and their children that DuPont was unwilling to voluntarily provide,” he said in a prepared statement.

DuPont spokesman Tim Ireland said the company will continue to defend itself.

“Under the trial court’s prior rulings, the judge will make the ultimate decision on the scope, cost and duration of any medical monitoring program,” Ireland said in a prepared statement.

Spelter residents won the first phase of their case Oct. 1, when jurors in Harrison County Circuit Court found DuPont liable for and negligent in creating the waste site. The 11-member jury also found that Delaware-based DuPont created a public and private nuisance and that its pollution trespassed onto private property.

The final phase will address whether DuPont’s conduct merits punitive damages.

The property owners sued DuPont and New York-based T.L. Diamond & Co. in 2004 over claims the companies deliberately dumped dangerous heavy metals on the industrial site in the heart of their town.

T.L. Diamond ran the plant from 1975 to 2001, when regulators recommended the site be declared an imminent and substantial threat to public health.

DuPont has been involved with the property since 1899 when it bought the land for a gunpowder mill. The company reassumed ownership when the zinc plant closed.

While Diamond is a defendant, the company isn’t actively participating in the trial. The judge in the case ruled previously that DuPont is responsible for Diamond’s conduct because of the 2001 sales agreement.

DuPont is currently funding a medical screening that stemmed from a settlement involving the contamination of public water supplies at another West Virginia operation.

In that case, a court-appointed panel of scientists is conducting medical screening of up to 70,000 West Virginia and Ohio residents to determine if a chemical used to produce Teflon has harmed their health. The chemical, ammonium perfluorooctanoate, known as C8, is used at DuPont’s Washington Works Plant near Parkersburg and contaminated their water supplies.

DuPont agreed to fund the health screening in that case and install carbon filters at six water district filtration plants to screen out the chemical.

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