A Columbus jury has awarded $10.5 million in punitive damages to a Washington County, Ohio man who claimed he developed testicular cancer as the result of exposure to a Teflon manufacturing solvent used for more than 50 years at DuPont Washington Works near Parkersburg, WV.
Kenneth Vigneron, 56, of Little Hocking, Ohio, is one of thousands of individuals living in the Mid-Ohio Valley who have filed personal injury claims against DuPont over the pollution. His case is the third to go to trial on the matter.
DuPont’s lawyers tried to convince the jury the corporation did not understand that the manufacturing substance they called C8 could create dangers for the community. They brazenly asserted that the company had done everything that it could to prevent harm to people in communities near the plant. However, Vigneron’s attorney’s produced evidence that the company had known C8 was poisoning neighboring water supplies since at least the 1980’s.
During arguments at trial, Vigneron attorney Gary J. Douglas pointed out that DuPont has publicly disavowed all responsibility and has done everything that it can to make life miserable for innocent victims who seek compensation.
Douglas implored the jury to “Teach them a lesson of decency, please.” Douglas explained that DuPont must do more than just clean up the mess that it created.
The jury responded today with a decision to make DuPont responsible for $10.5 million in punitive damages.
C8, PFOA or perfluorooctanoic acid is a toxic compound that has been detected in the environment all over the globe and in the blood of most people no matter where they live. Folks who live along the Ohio River near DuPont Washington Works became aware that their water was contaminated in the early 2000s. Since that time, C8 exposure in the Mid-Ohio Valley has been linked to six human health conditions: kidney and testicular cancer, thyroid disease, ulcerative colitis, preeclampsia (pregnancy induced hypertension) and medically diagnosed high cholesterol.
Thousands of individuals in the impacted areas have fallen ill with one or more of these diseases. People who have lived or worked in six communities along the Ohio River for at least one year prior to 2004 are entitled to medical monitoring and those who have developed related diseases are eligible to file a personal injury claim against DuPont – the polluting company. The communities covered in the class action lawsuit include: Belpre, Little Hocking, Tuppers Plains, and Pomeroy in Ohio and Lubeck and Mason County in West Virginia.
In the fall of 2015 a Columbus jury awarded Athens County resident Carla Bartlett, a kidney cancer survivor, $1.6 million. In a second jury trial July 2016, Marietta College professor David Freeman, who suffered from testicular cancer, was awarded $5.1 million and the jury added $500,000 in punitive damages because they determined that the polluting company acted with malice when it dumped C8 into the Ohio River.
The latest and third jury trial, Vigneron’s case, was awarded $2 million in December. Today, the jury tacked on $10.5 million in punitive damages and ordered DuPont to pay the plaintiff’s attorney fees.
A fourth case, that of Larry Moody, is scheduled to go to trial this month. Beginning in May 2017 these federal cases will go to trial at a rate of 40 a year. According to the scheduling order, the cases will be tried at the rate of 40 per year until they are all resolved or until DuPont reaches a settlement with litigants.