COLUMBUS, Ohio – A federal jury has returned a $2 million verdict against DuPont in the third of 3,500 cases charging that DuPont knowingly contaminated drinking water at its facility near Parkersburg.
The jury decided Kenneth Robert Vigneron contracted testicular cancer as a result of being exposed to DuPont’s C8 chemical in Belpre and Little Hocking water supplies, which are near the company's Washington Works facility in Wood County.
The verdict included damages from DuPont's negligence and a finding that the company’s conduct was malicious. The malicious ruling allows the jury to consider a possible punitive damages verdict in addition to the compensatory damages. The punitive damage phase of the trial will begin Jan. 4.
“DuPont’s conduct was egregious – dumping the chemical into community water sources with full knowledge that it would likely cause cancer and other diseases among the residents,” said Harry Deitzler, an attorney with Hill Peterson Carper Bee & Deitzler in Charleston. “Hopefully this verdict, along with the previous two verdicts, will send a strong message to DuPont and others who intentionally engage in conduct which puts the health of our community at risk.
“After our class action settlement 11 years ago, DuPont boldly proclaimed that it wanted an answer to the C8 toxicity question based on science. But when the truth was exposed, DuPont reversed its course. Over the past six weeks of trial, DuPont has paid its lawyers to say that the scientifically irrefutable conclusion as to C8’s toxicity is mistaken.”
Deitzler said DuPont’s lawyers tried to convince the jurors that officials didn't know the company was chemicals were toxic to the public and its employees for decades. He said that ignored animal studies and other documents which were in DuPont files for decades. He said the DuPont lawyers tried to convince the jury the company had done everything that it could do to prevent human exposure.
“The deception did not work,” Deitzler said. “Everyone could easily see that DuPont made virtually no effort to address the C8 poison danger until after we filed the class action lawsuit in 2001.”
In addition to Hill Peterson Carper Bee & Deitzler, other firms that worked on the plaintiff's case were Taft Stettinius and Hollister in Cincinnati and Winter Johnson and Hill in Charleston. Those firms filed the 2001 class action lawsuit which enabled all affected residents to seek compensation for their injuries. For the Vigneron case, the three original firms were joined by the law firms of Levin Papantonio from Pensacola, Fla., Douglas & London from New York and Kennedy & Madonna from Hurley, N.Y.
A community group praised the verdict.
“We at Keep Your Promises are heartened by the jury’s decision in this case," Keep Your Promises advisor Harold Bock said in a statement. "This verdict vindicates all of us who have been fighting for over a decade for DuPont to do the right thing."
“Kenneth, just like over three thousand people in the mid-Ohio Valley, are sick from DuPont’s C8, which they dumped into the Ohio River for decades. DuPont promised to compensate everyone who they made sick, but we have waited 12 years for them to fulfill that promise. In the meantime, people’s illnesses are getting worse.
“What DuPont can do is take responsibility and fulfill the promises they made to us over a decade ago. Today’s verdict is a step in the right direction. This holiday season, I and the rest of Keep Your Promises are calling on DuPont to do the right thing for all mid-Ohio Valley families.”