Federal court finds DuPont liable for $10.5 million in PFOA cancer case

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An Ohio federal court jury Jan. 5 found DuPont Co. liable for $10.5 million in punitive damages to a man who claimed he developed testicular cancer from exposure to the fluoropolymer chemical PFOA after it got into local drinking water supplies from DuPont’s Parkersburg, W. Va., factory.

The award, to Kenneth Vigneron, is in one of the first among 3,500 cases to be heard before a special panel at the U.S. District Court in Columbus, Ohio. Last month, the same jury awarded Vigneron an additional $2 million in compensatory damages.

Forty more trials are scheduled to start in May and last 12 months.

Advocates for local residents bringing the lawsuits said the Jan. 5 decision increases pressure on DuPont to reach a global settlement. But Chemours Co., a spinoff from DuPont that includes the fluoroproducts business, expects DuPont to appeal.

“We expect DuPont to appeal the verdict, subject to post-trial motions, to address important, unresolved issues that affect the broader, ongoing multi-district litigation,” said Mark Newman, senior vice president and chief financial officer of Chemours, in a Jan. 5 Securities and Exchange Commission filing.

“Litigation of this kind typically takes place over many years, and interim results do not predict the final outcome,” he said.

DuPont told Reuters news service that the company planned to appeal and believed the trial rulings misrepresented the science and misled jurors about the risks of exposure.

Keep Your Promises, an organization of local residents in affected communities, said the decision is the second time a jury has ruled against DuPont in PFOA contamination.

“As we look to the New Year, with 40 trials coming up in 2017 and pressure on DuPont to negotiate a global settlement, yet another punitive award, this time for Kenneth Vigneron, exponentially drives up the price tag of a settlement,” the group said.

The court, on its website, said there are 3,500 personal injury or wrongful death claims before the MDL panel, alleging harm from drinking water contaminated with perfluorooctoanoic acid discharged from DuPont’s Washington Works facility outside Parkersburg.

The court’s website said the cases stem from a 2005 settlement between DuPont and 80,000 nearby residents who consumed local water supplies, and who allege they suffer from one or more of six diseases with a “probable link” to PFOA exposure.

Chemours said in its statement that of the 3,500 cases, the court’s multiyear litigation plan pertains to about 270 cases that claim cancer. It said the remaining cases, making up 93 percent of the docket and of which the majority allege high cholesterol and thyroid disease, are inactive.