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DuPont planning to appeal $50M verdict in C8 case

COLUMBUS — DuPont intends to appeal a verdict awarding $50 million to a Meigs County couple who sued the company over the health effects from a chemical in their drinking water, a company spokesman said.

The jury in U.S. District Court in Columbus awarded compensatory damages to Travis and Julie Abbott of Pomeroy, who claimed Abbott contracted testicular cancer after years of drinking water tainted C8. The jury by not awarding punitive damages found DuPont didn’t act with malice.

The family of per- and polyfluoroalkyl chemicals — also called forever chemicals for their lasting persistence in nature — include C8 once used to make Teflon at the Washington Works plant. DuPont and its successor Chemours, as part of a settlement of the C8 suit in Wood County, have installed filtration systems for private and public water sources in the region.

The Abbotts were seeking $105 million for him and $15 million for his wife from the chemical company. The jury awarded Abbott $40 million and his wife $10 million, the highest award so far in the cases against DuPont.

“This is the largest,” said attorney Jon Conlin, who represented the Abbotts, of the law firm of Cory Watson of Birmingham, Ala.

The jury was deadlocked in the case brought by a second wife and husband, Angie and Teddy Swartz of Gallipolis who were seeking $11.5 million in damages from DuPont. Mrs. Swartz was diagnosed with kidney cancer.

While that outcome was disappointing, the Swartz case is the No. 1 lawsuit in the group that DuPont wanted to try because the company believed it would win, Conlin said. Conlin believes the Swartzes will win if there is a new trial.

DuPont plans to appeal the Abbott verdict, the company said in a statement from Dan Turner, a reputation and media relations spokesman in DuPont corporate communications.

“The jury arrived at a mixed decision. In one case, the jury was unable to reach a verdict. In the other case, the jury awarded the plaintiffs compensatory damages of $50 million, yet did not agree the company acted with malice,” Turner said. “The verdict was a product of district court rulings that severely and improperly limited our defenses in this case. We will vigorously challenge those rulings and the verdict on appeal.”

DuPont does not believe its use of PFOA contributed to the past health problems and disagrees with the jury’s decision regarding compensatory damages, he said.

“However, the jury’s decision not to award punitive damages validates our position that at no time was there a conscious disregard for those living near the Parkersburg, W.Va., plant,” Turner said.

The award is separate from the $670 million settlement of the class action cases against DuPont in 2017 in federal court. About 3,500 plaintiffs were in that multidistrict litigation.

The Abbotts will never get true justice because of the long-term health impact, but the verdict holds the company responsible for years of dumping the chemical in the environment, Conlin said. Incidents of cancers or other health effects in other people will persist for years to come, he said.

The science panel created by the settlement of the original lawsuit against DuPont in Wood County found C8 could cause six diseases in people. The panel of scientists studied the health data collected from 70,000 residents from the Mid-Ohio Valley.

“There are still people out there who have cancers pop up every day,” Conlin said.

Jess Mancini can be reached at jmancini@newsandsentinel.com.

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