US jury awards more damages in DuPont Teflon case

Al Greenwood


HOUSTON (ICIS)–A federal jury found DuPont liable on Friday for an additional $500,000 in a lawsuit alleging that a feedstock of Teflon caused a man to develop cancer after the material was discharged into a river near the company’s former Washington Works complex in West Virginia, spin-off Chemours said on Friday.

While DuPont was named in the lawsuit, Chemours now owns the company’s Teflon business and the Washington Works complex.

The lawsuit, filed by David Freeman, is one of about 3,500 filed against DuPont by people who alleged that the feedstock is toxic and caused them to develop cancer or other health problems.

Earlier, the jury awarded Freeman $5.1m in his negligence claims against DuPont. The additional $500,000 on Friday were punitive damages added on top of those from the negligence claims.

The feedstocks involved in the lawsuit are perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) and its ammonium salt, called C-8. Up until the fourth quarter of 2014, PFOA was used as a processing aid to make Teflon, a fluoropolymer.

In a statement, DuPont said it would appeal the verdict. It alleged that jurors were misled about the risks of exposure to C-8. In addition, the findings from an independent science panel were misrepresented, the company said.

Media reports have said that Chemours had agreed to pay for the damages in the PFOA litigation.

Chemours did not comment about such an agreement. However, it stressed that DuPont is directly liable for any judgment.

“In the event DuPont claims that it is entitled to indemnification from Chemours as to some or all of the judgment, Chemours retains its defenses to such claims,” the company said on Friday.

Under indemnification, DuPont would request that Chemours reimburse it for the damages.

The Freeman case is the second to reach trial among the approximately 3,500 that have been filed against DuPont.

The first, Bartlett versus DuPont, resulted in a $1.6m verdict against the company, Chemours said in its annual report. Unlike the Freeman case, the Bartlett case did not involve punitive damages. DuPont has also appealed that case.

Another case, Wolf versus DuPont, was settled for an amount that Chemours said was significantly below what it would have paid to prepare for trial.

These lawsuits go back to an August 2001 class-action case, called Leach versus DuPont, that was filed in West Virginia state court, the annual report said. In the lawsuit, people living near the Washington Works complex alleged that their health suffered because of their exposure to PFOA.

Three years later, DuPont reached a settlement with about 80,000 people in the class-action lawsuit, the Chemours annual report said.

Afterward, an independent panel was created to find any links between PFOA exposure and health problems, the report said. Ultimately, the panel found probable links between PFOA exposure and pregnancy-induced hypertension, kidney cancer, testicular cancer, thyroid disease, ulcerative colitis and high cholesterol.

Members of the Leach class-action lawsuit could pursue personal-injury claims against DuPont only for the conditions covered in the panel’s report, Chemours said.

In the majority of the subsequent lawsuits, the plaintiffs alleged that PFOA exposure caused them to develop high cholesterol or thyroid disease, Chemours said in its annual report. Another 37 lawsuits alleged that PFOA killed the people exposed to it. In all, 7% of the cases allege cancer.

The Freeman case was the latest one to go to trial. According to Chemours, two more trials are scheduled for this year.

Looking ahead, the court will hear 40 trials per year starting in April 2017, Chemours said. These trials will pertain to the cancer cases. The remaining lawsuits will remain inactive.

The case number of the Freeman case is 13-cv-1103, and it was filed in US District Court, Southern District of Ohio.

The Bartlett case was also filed in US District court, Southern District of Ohio. Its case number is 13-cv-00170.

It has since been appealed to the US Court of Appeals for the Sixth District. Its case number in the appeals court is 16-3310.


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