DuPont Is Ordered to Pay $196.2 Million in Dumping Case

Associated Press

CLARKSBURG, W.Va. -- DuPont Co. was ordered Friday to pay $196.2 million in punitive damages for deliberately dumping dangerous heavy metals on an industrial site, ending a complex trial involving property damage claims, long-term health screenings and corporate accountability.

The lawsuit accused DuPont of deliberately dumping toxic arsenic, cadmium and lead on the site of a former zinc-smelting plant, leaving thousands of residents in and around the small town of Spelter in fear for their health.

Ten Harrison County residents who sued DuPont won the first phase of their case Oct. 1, when jurors found the chemical company liable for and negligent in creating the waste site. They also found DuPont had created a public and private nuisance and that its pollution trespassed onto private property.

In the second phase of the trial, the jury required DuPont to provide medical monitoring for 40 years to people who were exposed to the arsenic, cadmium and lead. Judge Thomas Bedell will determine how the plan will be administered.

On Monday, jurors decided DuPont should pay about $55.5 million to clean up private properties.

DuPont said it would appeal the decision.

"We are extremely disappointed by the outcome of the Spelter case. With today's decision, DuPont believes it has been unfairly punished for doing the right thing for this property and this community," the company said in a statement.

DuPont lawyer Jeffrey Hall also said he was displeased with the verdict.

"DuPont last owned this property in 1950. Forty-six years later, DuPont came back. It alone, among all the prior owners of this property, worked with the DEP, cleaned up the property, and helped the community," he said. "We will appeal."

Following the conclusion of the fourth and final phase of the lawsuit, the plaintiffs _ hugging each other and their lawyers _ celebrated with a cake in the hallway outside the courtroom.

Plaintiff Waunona Crouser said the three years since the class-action lawsuit was filed have been stressful but she never doubted the 11-member jury would do the right thing.

"They're West Virginians and that's how we are in the state of West Virginia. We watch each other's backs. We don't let people do this to us."


DuPont Lawsuit Winds Down

Associated Press
By Vicki Smith    
   
CLARKSBURG, W.Va. 
  
DuPont manipulated state environmental regulators and lied to residents about the dangers surrounding a zinc-smelting plant in Spelter and should now pay a high price for its wanton, willful and reckless conduct, attorney Robert Kennedy Jr. argued Thursday as a class-action medical monitoring lawsuit went to the jury.

The 11-member panel in Harrison County Circuit Court must weigh whether to award punitive damages to 10 Spelter residents suing the chemical giant in a complex four-part trial involving property damage claims, long-term health screenings and corporate accountability.

The jury recessed after roughly three hours of deliberation Thursday without reaching a verdict. It was scheduled to begin further deliberation Friday.

Kennedy accused DuPont of repeatedly misleading the public with many "little lies" intended to save the company money on testings and cleanups.

"They were being cagey. They were being dodgy. They were being coy. They were being clever," he said. "That is who DuPont is. They have lost touch with their moral bearings."

DuPont attorney Jeffrey Hall argued his client did what state and federal regulators demanded, voluntarily removing a 112-acre waste pile tainted with arsenic, cadmium and lead, then capping it with plastic and clean soil.

"You've seen a lot of arm-waving, finger-pointing, name-calling," he told the jury. "Those are tactics to divert. They're tactics to anger you, to have you decide this case on anger, not evidence."

The plaintiffs won the first phase of their case Oct. 1, when jurors found DuPont liable for and negligent in creating the waste site. They also found DuPont had created a public and private nuisance and that its pollution trespassed onto private property.

In the second phase of the trial, the jury required DuPont to provide medical monitoring for 40 years to people who were exposed to the arsenic, cadmium and lead. Judge Thomas Bedell will determine how the plan will be administered.

On Monday, jurors decided DuPont should pay about $55.5 million to clean up private properties.

Hall said DuPont does not deserve to be punished further.

He argued DuPont should be applauded for using the state-run, voluntary remediation program to clean up the Spelter site rather than the federal Superfund program. He claims Superfund is no more effective, much slower moving and potentially more disruptive to the quality of life because some Superfund cleanups have involved letting large waste piles burn.

Hall also dismissed the plaintiffs' claims that state Department of Environmental Protection officials were complicit in allowing the pollution to occur, then sparing DuPont the expense of cleaning up the neighborhoods along with the site. He called those claims unsubstantiated.

But Kennedy said DuPont "had the state wired" with close contacts with people including DEP Secretary - and former DuPont attorney - Stephanie Timmermeyer.

"This agency was a hand puppet for this company," he charged.

"These gentlemen have come here day after day and said, 'We did what the agencies told us to do,' but they were lying to the agencies," he said, claiming DuPont routinely massaged statistics to suit its purposes. "This is part of the corporate DNA, these tiny perjuries that illustrate what the corporate culture here is really all about."

Kennedy pointed to the packed courtroom, where dozens of residents sat shoulder to shoulder, and urged the jury to send a message to DuPont and other industries he said are raping the state's natural resources.

"These were people who could not believe that other human beings were able to treat them this way, but this was a company that is willing to treat all of these people as if they were commodities," he said. "They looked over the green landscape of West Virginia and they saw a commodity. They saw cash."