DuPont has filed a request to consolidate nearly 30 environmental tort lawsuits filed in the federal court system by Ohio and West Virginia residents who allege that the company contaminated their drinking water with a chemical known as C-8.
The lawsuits include both personal injury claims and wrongful death lawsuits from four water districts in Ohio and two in West Virginia.
On January 11, DuPont filed a motion (PDF) with the U.S. Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation (JPML), seeking to transfer all of the claims to either the Southern District of Ohio or the Southern District of West Virginia, for coordinated pretrial proceedings as part of a C-8 water contamination MDL, or multidistrict litigation.
The complaints are linked to alleged releases of perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA), also known as C-8 or C8, from DuPont’s Washington Works Plant in Parkersburg, West Virginia prior to 2004. The chemical is used to manufacture products like Teflon and Gore-Tex.
C-8 is a toxic cancer-causing agent, and stays in the environment indefinitely; never breaking down, according to allegations in the complaints. Studies have linked C-8 exposure to kidney disease, thyroid disease, ulcerative colitis, testicular cancer, pregnancy-induced hypertension, and increases in cholesterol.
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.
DuPont noted in its MDL motion that all of the lawsuits involve plaintiffs who suffer from one of the C-8 side effects confirmed by the science panel. DuPont notes that since the class action involved some 80,000 participants, who can sue the company individually based on the science panel’s findings under the terms of the original class action lawsuit, the company expects many more complaints to be filed.
Establishing an MDL for the DuPont C-8 water contamination lawsuits would reduce duplicative discovery, avoid inconsistent rulings from different judges and serve the convenience of the witnesses, the parties and the courts, according to the request filed by DuPont.