The Chief Judge for the federal court in Southern Ohio has ruled that the jury will be able to consider awarding punitive damages against DuPont in regard to its cancer-causing chemical C8 utilized in Teflon. Judge Edmond Sargus, Jr. ruled as follow:
At trial, Mrs. Bartlett offered evidence that DuPont released the C-8 into the Ohio River, despite its own internal 1991 memorandum that stated that C-8 should not be discharged to surface water, and a 1986 warning by the 3M Company, the manufacturer of the C-8, that C-8 should only be disposed of through incineration at a specially designated, properly lined, landfill for hazardous chemicals. Mrs. Bartlett’s expert witness Stephen E. Petty, P.E., C.I.H., C.S.P. testified that from an industrial hygiene standpoint and environmental risk assessment standpoint, DuPont should have followed 3M’s recommendation.
That warning from 3M Company came on the second page of a 2-page Material Safety Data Sheet (“MSDS”), which is a formal document that is required by the United States Occupational Safety and Health Administration that contains information about the characteristics and actual or potential hazards of exposure to chemicals, or other potentially dangerous substances, and information on safe working procedures when handling chemical products, storage, disposal, and how to respond effectively to exposure situations. DuPont did not dispose of the C-8 in either of the two recommended manners and instead released the C-8 into surface waters, unlined landfills, and the air in ever increasing amounts. Dr. Petty testified that to properly incinerate C-8 would only have cost less than 0.2 percent of the Washington Works’ annual operating cost. DuPont provided information to the West Virginia environmental regulators about C-8 by providing them with only the first page of the MSDS. The information on safe disposal was on the second page of the MSDS that DuPont did not provide to the regulators. [citation omitted]
. . .
The evidence before this Court in total, viewing it as required under Rule 50, is similar in that a reasonable jury could find that DuPont has known since the 1960s that C-8 is toxic, has known since the 1970s that it will build up, accumulate, and persist in the blood of humans exposed, has known since 1984 that C-8 was in community drinking water supplies near its Washington Works plant, knew that the “low levels” of C-8 in the water would accumulate in the blood of an individual to a level that was not being measured, did not inform the public or regulators of this knowledge, failed to utilize the best available scientific methodology to test the toxicity of C-8, had recommendations from its medical director, lawyers, epidemiologists, toxicologists, and peer review boards to stop and/or reduce the amount of C-8 released into the environment because of the known and foreseeable risks, and continued to increase C-8 releases in significant amounts.
Based on the foregoing, and the additional evidence presented at trial and not specified supra, the Court finds that “reasonable minds can differ as to whether [DuPont] was aware [its] act[s] had a great probability of causing substantial harm. . . . [and] that sufficient evidence [has been] presented revealing that [DuPont] consciously disregarded [Mrs. Bartlett]’s rights or safety.” Preston v. Murty, 32 Ohio St. 3d at 336. Accordingly, a reasonable jury would have a legally sufficient evidentiary basis to find for Mrs. Bartlett on her punitive damages claim.
The Plaintiff in the case is Carla Bartlett, who is suffering from kidney cancer as a result of DuPont’s chemical C8. Ms. Bartlett is being represented by Mike Papantonio and the law firm of Levin Papantonio.
Click to read the Entire DuPont Punitive Damage Order.