In the first trial for a DuPont C-8 water contamination lawsuits, a federal jury awarded $1.6 million to a woman who alleged that she developed cancer after the chemical used to manufacturer Tephlon leaked from a West Virginia plant.
The lawsuit was filed by Carla Bartlett, following chemical leaks from a DuPont plant before 2004, which entered local waterways and allegedly caused her to suffer kidney cancer.
Barlett is one of about 3,500 individuals residents around DuPont’s Washington Works Plant in Parkersburg, West Virginia who are pursuing a lawsuit against DuPont over C-8 exposure. Plaintiffs allege that they suffered various injuries due to the release of perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA), also known as C-8 or C8, which is a chemical used to manufacture products like Teflon and Gore-Tex.
Plaintiffs claim that DuPont knew for years that C8 from the plant posed serious health problems for area residents, including a risk of cancer, birth defects and other complications. The company also allegedly did little to prevent numerous spills and releases into the environment, the lawsuits claim.
Since November 2013, all complaints filed throughout the federal court system have been centralized for pretrial proceedings before U.S. District Judge Edmund A. Sargus in the Southern District of West Virginia.
Bartlett’s claim was the first to go to trial, with a second trial scheduled to begin in November. While the outcomes of the cases are not binding on other claims in the litigation, they are being closely watched by lawyers involved in the lawsuits, as they may influence eventual DuPont C-8 exposure settlement negotiations.
Following a three-week trial, the jury agreed that Bartlett’s cancer was caused by exposure to C-8, and awarded compensatory damages of $1.6 million. The jury declined to levy punitive damages against DuPont’s Chemours Co. subsidiary, after finding that the manufacturer had not acted maliciously in the chemical releases.
DuPont C-8 Health Problems
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.
The lawsuits claim the company went as far as covering up the side effects of C-8 and lying to residents and health officials.
In the wake of a 2005 class action lawsuit brought by residents against Du Pont, 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.