DuPont Toxic Tort Lawsuit Results in Plaintiff’s Verdict Over Chemical Spill

A Kentucky jury awarded $1.25 million in damages to six plaintiffs earlier this month, in what is the first stage of a large chemical spill lawsuit against DuPont that could result in the largest environmental tort award in Kentucky history.

The toxic tort lawsuit stems from an October 11, 2004 chemical spill at a DuPont plant in Wurtland, Ky., when a cracked pipe resulted in the release of a cloud of sulfuric acid over the neighboring communities.

The six plaintiffs are the first of 179 alleged victims with claims against the large chemical manufacturer. Some of the plaintiffs include firefighters and police who suffered injuries while assisting with evacuation and emergency response for the affected area.

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This first ruling determined that gross negligence on the part of DuPont was the cause for the spill and the victims’ injuries, and multiplied the medical costs of the injuries suffered by the plaintiffs by 10 to determine the punitive damages. The remaining trials will be aimed at determining the medical compensation of the other 173 victims, and then will apply that same multiplier to reach the punitive damages amount.

U.S. District Judge David Bunning has ruled that DuPont cannot appeal the verdict until a decision has been reached on all 179 plaintiffs’ claims.

The cracked pipe was carrying sulfur trioxide, but when released into the atmosphere, it became a cloud of sulfuric acid. Injuries included skin burns, eye irritation and respiratory problems. Victims ranged in age from 18 months to 80 years of age from across Greenup County, Kentucky.

The incident was the second of its kind from the plant, which had a similar accident in 1995 that resulted in a 23,800 gallon leak and the evacuation of more than 1,000 residents. DuPont was sued for that incident as well, and also had to pay the Department of Justice and Environmental Protection Agency $1.5 million. Litigation in that incident is still ongoing.


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