Following a series of bellwether trials that resulted in multimillion dollar jury verdicts, DuPont and Chemours Co. has decided to pay $671 million to settle C-8 exposure lawsuits, which have been filed by Ohio and West Virginia residents who allegedly developed cancer and other ailments due to water contamination.
The water contamination settlement was announced in a press release issued on February 13, indicating that DuPont and Chemours would fund the payment equally, with each contributing $335.35 million to settle approximately 3,500 claims.
The cases were brought by individuals who lived around DuPont’s Washington Works Plant in Parkersburg, West Virginia, alleging that they suffered various injuries due to water contamination caused by the release of C-8, also known as perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA), which is used to manufacture substances like Teflon and Gore-Tex.
The settlement agreement comes after three bellwether trials, all which ended in multimillion dollar verdicts against the chemical companies.
The most recent was a $12.5 million verdict, which included $10 million in punitive damages designed to punish the companies for acting with reckless disregard for the safety of area residents. The settlement also comes after separate juries awarded $1.6 million and $5.6 million in damages following two earlier bellwether trials.
Each of the plaintiffs pursuing DuPont C-8 water contamination lawsuits raise similar allegations, indicating that the company knew for years that chemicals released from the plant posed serious health problems for area residents, including a risk of cancer, birth defects and other complications. Plaintiffs maintain that DuPont did little to prevent numerous spills and releases into the environment.
According to Chemours, the settlement also makes arrangements for future claims filed against the companies.
“To address potential future PFOA costs not covered by the global settlement, during each of the five years following the effectiveness of the settlement, Chemours and DuPont have agreed that Chemours will annually pay the first $25 million of any potential future PFOA costs,” the press release states. “If that amount is exceeded, DuPont will pay any additional amount up to $25 million, annually.”
DuPont C-8 is a toxic, cancer-causing agent that stays in the environment indefinitely; never breaking down, according to allegations in the lawsuits filed by area residents.
Studies have linked C-8 exposure to kidney disease, thyroid disease, ulcerative colitis, testicular cancer, pregnancy-induced hypertension, and increases in cholesterol.
Lawsuits filed by residents allege that they were affected by the contamination of their water supply. The lawsuits claim the company knew C-8 was toxic since at least 1961, but failed to take adequate steps to prevent water contamination or to warn workers or nearby residents of the health risks.
In the wake of a 2005 class action lawsuit brought by residents against DuPont, a panel of independent epidemiologists was assigned to look at the dangers of C-8. In a study released in July, they confirmed many of the ailments linked to exposure. The study looked at 70,000 residents who were exposed to the chemical via their drinking water.