CHARLESTON - The first three West Virginia lawsuits have been filed in Wood County Circuit Court against DuPont alleging personal injury and, in one case, a death allegedly linked to C8 exposure.
An independent three-member science panel of epidemiologists was appointed to determine whether there is a probable link between C8 exposure and disease as part of the settlement in a class-action lawsuit brought by residents and former residents of six affected water districts against DuPont Washington Works. DuPont discharged C8 from its plant. The affected water districts that were part of the class-action suit are Little Hocking, Belpre, Lubeck, Tuppers Plains, Pomeroy and Mason County.
Also known as perfluorooctanoic acid or PFOA, C8 is a man-made chemical used in manufacturing products including nonstick cookware, protective finishes on carpets and water-resistant clothing. Nearly 70,000 people in the six affected water districts who were part of the lawsuit were tested and had medical histories taken in addition to several other studies including DuPont employees.
The two personal injury lawsuits and one wrongful death suit were filed by Charleston attorney Kathy Brown on behalf of individuals who lived in Wood County and surrounding areas.
To date, the C8 Science Panel has established probable links between C8 exposure and thyroid disease, ulcerative colitis, kidney cancer, testicular cancer, and pregnancy-induced hypertension. The panel is scheduled to release its final set of findings before the end of this month.
The plaintiffs in the three lawsuits are Virginia Morrison who is suing on behalf of her late husband. Separate lawsuits were filed on behalf of Scott Blackwell and Sandra Tennant. The three lawsuits were filed in Wood County Circuit Court on Friday, with DuPont named as the defendant in all civil actions. Blackwell's case has been assigned to Circuit Judge J.D. Beane's court; Tennant's case was assigned to Circuit Judge Robert Waters' division and Morrison's case was assigned to Circuit Judge Jeffrey B. Reed's court.
The wrongful death suit was filed by Virginia Morrison on behalf of her husband who reportedly died of injuries related to kidney cancer in 2008.
"We lived on DuPont Road for years," Morrison said. "Only this year did we find out that the water we were drinking may have made my husband sick."
The two other civil actions claim injuries involving thyroid disease and ulcerative colitis.
"This is entirely different from the earlier class-action lawsuit. This is so different that these personal injury claims were specifically separated and carved out from the class-action seven years ago," Brown said. "These lawsuits are for people who have one of those reported diseases and are seeking justice. My co-counsel and I are continuing to screen cases and talk to people throughout the area about their injuries and what remedies they may have."
Brown is working with the law firm of Cory Watson Crowder & DeGaris, P.C. Cory Watson is a Birmingham, Ala., personal injury law firm known for handling similar multi-plaintiff and personal injury lawsuits. Cory Watson has also handled contamination litigation throughout the country involving other multi-national corporate defendants such as Monsanto, BP Oil, Pharmacia, Pfizer and Chevron.
"Where you now live does not matter if you were exposed to the potentially contaminated water from any of those (six water district) areas for at least one year prior to Dec. 3, 2004. If you did live there and you have suffered or are suffering from any of the conditions which the Science Panel has linked to C8, you should contact a lawyer to explore your rights," Conlin said.
In a prepared statement, Dan Turner, DuPont Public Affairs, said, "Some years ago DuPont, with more than 2000 local employees working at our Washington Works Plant, was sued. Working together with local residents and attorneys DuPont funded a comprehensive medical study to determine any probable links between the operation of our Washington Works facility and possible health issues in the community. We also committed to fund a medical monitoring program for local residents."
Turner sent on to say: "Recently, however, plaintiff attorneys began advertising for clients to now sue us for specific health issues in personal injury lawsuits. Lawsuits have been filed, including three in Wood County. Lawsuits such as these ignore family history and lifestyle choices as a primary cause of health issues and disease in specific individuals. DuPont will vigorously defend against any and all such lawsuits not based upon valid science while providing good jobs with good wages and benefits in our local community."