Jury orders DuPont to pay nearly $200 million in punitive damages

By Cara Bailey | Oct 24, 2007

CLARKSBURG - A Harrison County jury has ordered DuPont to pay $196.2 million in punitive damages after the company was convicted of wanton, willful and reckless conduct.

DuPont was ordered to pay damages for its actions at a former zinc-smelting plant, after a class-action lawsuit claimed the chemical company lied about health threats from pollution.

The punitive damages were awarded in the fourth and final phase of the trial. Combined with the previous verdicts, DuPont has to pay nearly $400 million in awards.

The lawsuit, filed on behalf of 10 residents of Spelter, involved property damages claims, long-tern health screenings and corporate accountability.

Plaintiff Waunona Crouser told the Associated Press that things have been stressful since the suit was filed three years ago, but she never doubted the jury would do the right thing.

"They're West Virginians and that's how we are in the state of West Virginia," Crouser said. "We watch each other's backs. We don't let people do this to us."

The plaintiffs won the first phase of the case Oct. 1. The jury found DuPont liable for and negligent in creating the waste site. Jurors found DuPont created a public and private nuisance.

In the second phase, jurors ordered DuPont to provide medical monitoring for 40 years to residents who were exposed to arsenic, cadmium and lead. The plan to provide the monitoring, estimated to cost more than $100 million, will be determined by Judge Thomas Bedell, who will also determine how the punitive damages will be divided.

The third phase, which concluded Oct. 15, ended with jurors deciding DuPont should pay nearly $55.5 million to clean private properties.

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