CHARLESTON -- The chemical giant DuPont now wants the 8,500 people who brought a pollution case against the company to provide it with handwritten documents.
According to The Associated Press, DuPont has asked Harrison Circuit Judge Thomas Bell to order every plaintiff in the class-action lawsuit -- potentially worth millions of dollars -- to answer questions about where they lived and for how long and whether they have read news coverage of the case.
Bell ruled last month that the retrial of part of the case involving the alleged contamination of a Harrison County community by the company will start March 7. He also rejected DuPont's request that the retrial be moved from Harrison County because of local publicity.
The March 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.
In June, West Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals 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.
The Court remanded the case and ordered a new trial to determine if the case was filed in a timely manner.
But the plaintiffs' lawyers say DuPont's most recent demand is "unreasonable, unsupported by law and can only be intended to create undue burdens," the AP said.
However, DuPont spokesman Dan Turner told The Clarksburg Exponent-Telegram the handwritten responses are "essential" to the company's defense.
According to the AP, Perry and Jerry Jones, the plaintiffs' lawyers, have filed a motion to block the company's demand.