CLARKSBURG - The plaintiffs' attorneys in a class-action lawsuit against DuPont will share a portion of their fees with the 10 people who represented thousands of their neighbors in the case.

Harrison Circuit Chief Judge Thomas A. Bedell approved incentive payments of $50,000 for each of the lead plaintiffs this week, and rejected the defendant's argument that the payments were improper.

The attorneys were awarded $135 million in lawyers' fees in the case, which the incentive pay must come from, Bedell said.

Bedell rejected a similar request in February, to award $75,000 incentive payments for each lead plaintiff, but was asked to reconsider when the attorneys requested the payments be deducted from the lawyers fees instead of the jury awards.

DuPont was ordered to pay $196.2 million in punitive damages after the company was convicted of wanton, willful and reckless conduct in its operation of a zinc-smelting plant. The plaintiffs were all residents of Spelter, where the plant was operated.

They sued DuPont in 2004, claiming the company had lied about health threats from arsenic, cadmium and lead that contaminated air, soil and water.

DuPont was ordered to pay a total of nearly $400 million, when all the phases of the trial were combined.

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 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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