OHIO VALLEY — More than two dozen personal injury lawsuits have been filed by Mid-Ohio Valley residents against DuPont so far in response to findings by the C8 Science Panel linking C8 exposure to several different types of human disease.
All but one of the cases was filed by Charleston, West Virginia attorney Kathy Brown who has been hosting a series of community meetings to provide information for those who may be impacted by the findings.
“People are generally surprised that I am the only attorney coming to their town and explaining their legal rights,” Brown said. “Some folks in Meigs County had no idea they had a potential claim.”
It all came about as the result of a class action lawsuit filed in Wood County Circuit Court in West Virginia by area residents against DuPont over the contamination of local water supplies with the manufacturing chemical C8, otherwise known as PFOA or perfluorooctanoic acid. The controversial substance has been used in the production of Teflon and other consumer applications at DuPont Washington Works near Parkersburg, West Virginia since the 1950s. In 2002, local water consumers in several Ohio communities including Belpre, Tuppers Plains, Little Hocking and Pomeroy discovered that the substance had made its way into their wells and aquifers. The contamination was also found in public water supplies in Lubeck and Mason County, West Virginia.
Last December, the C8 Science Panel linked C8 to pregnancy-induced hypertension. In April, the panel linked the manmade substance to kidney and testicular cancer. In July, the panel linked C8 to thyroid disease and ulcerated colitis. In October, the panel linked C8 exposure to high cholesterol.
Consequently, a medical panel has been appointed to decide what monitoring or screening might be appropriate for members of the class in light of the findings. In the meantime, class members who suffer from diseases linked to C8 are free to proceed with their own personal injury claims against DuPont. The class action settlement agreement indicates that DuPont may not dispute that C8 can cause the specific diseases which the C8 Science Panel has linked to exposure.
Brown is working with the Alabama firm of Cory Watson Crowder & DeGaris, a nationally known personal injury law firm with experience handling similar environmental contamination cases, and Debra Nelson of the Nelson Law Firm.
“We are filing these cases in a timely manner for the people affected as we continue to evaluate the claims and medical records for all the local residents who asked Ms. Brown and us for help after being harmed by DuPont’s fifty years of wrongful and dangerous conduct,” said Jon Conlin, lead attorney handling the matter on behalf of Cory Watson.
Of the cases Brown and her team have filed, eleven are in Washington County, three are in Meigs County, four are in Athens County and four are in Mason County, West Virginia. The cases involve 11 people with thyroid disease, five with kidney cancer and one with testicular cancer, four with ulcerative colitis and one with pregnancy-induced hypertension.
“As you can see, the diseases are varied,” Brown said. “Generally we are seeing more thyroid disease than anything, but we are surprised at the number of cancer cases. We have, so far, filed 25 cases and seven of them are cancer cases, so nearly one third of the cases files are cancer cases.”
Under the terms of the class action settlement agreement, the criteria for filing a personal injury claim is not based on an individual’s current place of residence. The class involves anyone who lived or worked within the contaminated water districts and consumed the water for a year or more prior to December 3, 2004.
“What we are filing is different from the class-action,” Brown said. “These lawsuits are for people who have already suffered from one of those C8-linked diseases. My co-counsel and I are continuing to screen cases and talk with people throughout the area about their injuries and what remedies they may have.”