DuPont reaches settlement with C-8 class action group
DuPont and attorneys for local residents who filed a class action lawsuit in 2001 over releases from DuPont's Washington Works plant of the chemical C-8, an ingredient in its Teflon products, have reached an agreement in principle to settle the suit, officials from both parties announced today...
WILMINGTON, DE, and PARKERSBURG, WV, Sept. 9, 2004 (PRNewswire-FirstCall) -- DuPont and attorneys for local residents who filed a class action lawsuit in 2001 over releases from DuPont's Washington Works plant of the chemical C-8, also known as PFOA, have reached an agreement in principle to settle the suit, officials from both parties announced today.
The Associated Press reported that the actual cost of the settlement could range between $107 million and $343 million. PFOA - ammonium perfluorooctanoate - is a key ingredient used in DuPont's Teflon product line.
Critical components of the proposed settlement include C-8 water treatment facilities for area communities and creation of an expert panel to conduct a community study to assist it in evaluating whether there is a probable link between C-8 exposure and any human disease.
The settlement, which is pending approval in Wood County Circuit Court, calls for cash payments and expenditures valued at $85 million, plus attorneys' fees and expenses of $22.6 million. The settlement also addresses contingent medical monitoring funding.
The settlement proceeds will be directed into the Ohio and West Virginia communities in the vicinity of the Washington Works plant that comprise the class bringing the suit. As part of the settlement, DuPont has agreed to an initial cash payment of $70 million, $20 million of which will be used for health and education projects.
In addition, DuPont will also offer to provide six area water districts - Little Hocking, Lubeck, Belpre, Tuppers Plains, Mason County and Pomeroy - a state-of-the-art water treatment system designed to reduce the level of C-8 in the water supply to the lowest practicable levels as specified by the water districts. The company will offer the same technology or its equivalent to residents of those districts whose sole source of drinking water is a private well. The company estimates the cost for water treatment at $10 million.
The other key component to the settlement is the creation of an independent panel of experts to evaluate available scientific evidence on the extent of any probable link between exposure to PFOA and any human disease, including birth defects. Toward that end, this independent panel will also design and conduct a health study in the communities exposed to PFOA. DuPont will fund this study at an estimated cost of $5 million.
If the independent panel concludes that a probable link exists between exposure to PFOA and any diseases, DuPont will also fund a medical monitoring program for up to $235 million, in $1 million intervals, to pay for such medical testing. In this event, DuPont will not contest general causation between PFOA and any such disease in any personal injury claims that plaintiffs may pursue. If no such probable link is found, plaintiffs' personal injury claims and related punitive damage claims would be released at that point.
All of the plaintiffs' other claims for relief, including medical monitoring, injunctive relief, property damage, and all claims for punitive damage related to such claims, will be released upon final court approval of the settlement. DuPont's obligations for water treatment would cease only if the scientific panel finds no probable link between PFOA exposure and any disease.
"After two years of discussions, we are pleased to reach an agreement that places our combined priorities where they belong - on the community and not on lengthy and contentious legal proceedings," said Stacey J. Mobley, DuPont general counsel. "We want to make very clear that settling this lawsuit in no way implies any admission of liability on DuPont's part. Nevertheless, a settlement at this time provides benefit to both parties by taking reasonable steps based on science and, at the same time, contributing to the community."
"In addition to the clear benefit of removing C-8 from their drinking water, addressing medical monitoring, and funding a scientific study on the effects of PFOA exposure, this agreement preserves people's rights to pursue any personal injury claims they may have if their exposure to C-8 is found to be linked to any disease or birth defects," said Robert A. Bilott of the Cincinnati law firm of Taft, Stettinius & Hollister LLP, one of the class counsel for the plaintiffs.
The Charleston, WV, law firms of Hill, Peterson, Carper, Bee & Deitzler, PLLC, and Winter Johnson & Hill, PLLC, also serve as class counsel for the plaintiffs.
DuPont is a science company. Founded in 1802, DuPont puts science to work by creating sustainable solutions essential to a better, safer, healthier life for people everywhere. Operating in more than 70 countries, DuPont offers a wide range of innovative products and services for markets including agriculture, nutrition, electronics, communications, safety, and protection, home and construction, transportation and apparel.