CHARLESTON -- A circuit court judge has ruled that the retrial of part of a case involving the alleged contamination of a Harrison County community by DuPont will start in March 2011.

Harrison Circuit Judge Thomas A. Bedell set the trial to start on March 7, according to The Charleston Gazette.

The trial will focus on whether the lawsuit was filed in a timely manner.

DuPont is alleged to have released cadmium, arsenic and lead from one of its smelters into the community of Spelter, just north of Clarksburg.

The site was originally a DuPont gunpowder mill that opened in 1899. After the mill burned down, Grasselli Chemical Co. built a zinc smelter and a company town. DuPont bought Grasselli in 1928 and operated the smelter until 1950.

It wasn't until the late 1980s that federal environmental officials began investigating the site.

DuPont eventually repurchased the smelter and worked to clean it up.

In June, the justices decided to reject DuPont's petition for rehearing, which asked the Court to further cut punitive damages.

The Court had shaved a $196 million punitives award by 40 percent, but DuPont sought to increase that figure to 70 percent.

In their June opinion, the justices said DuPont entered a special master's recommendation of 70 percent too late.

"(A)s a result of DuPont's silence during oral argument, it has waived its right to contest the issue of an allocation of punitive damages by the circuit court," the opinion said.

The justices remanded the case and ordered a new trial to determine if the case was filed in a timely manner.

According to the Gazette, Bedell ruled that jurors in the new trial would decide on a class-wide basis whether residents filed their claims in a timely manner.

The judge also decided to give DuPont a chance to try to show that individual residents knew about potential claims longer than two years and failed to file their claims within the statute of limitations.

Also in Bedell's ruling, issued last Wednesday, he rejected DuPont's request that the retrial be moved from Harrison County because of local publicity about the case.

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