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What happens when a company faces more than 3,500 product liability lawsuits over the possible toxicity of one of its products? In one case, if that company is DuPont and the product is Teflon, a federal judge orders you to begin bringing 40 of those cases to trial every year. The move is meant to bring the parties closer to a resolution over the dispute, which centers on cancer and other illnesses caused by a chemical that for years was routinely dumped into a river, which was also a source of the public water supply for communities in West Virginia and Ohio.
DuPont has for some time now been on the receiving end of litigation over contamination by the chemical perfluorooctanoic acid, or PFOA, which is also commonly called C8. For decades, it dumped C8 into the Ohio River after use. At the time, the chemical was not known to be dangerous. DuPont, however, knew by the early 1980s that C8 was hazardous and had indications that it was linked to cancer, birth defects, and liver damage in those with high exposure. The company did not disclose that information, but much of it eventually become public. DuPont has since faced fines by the EPA and thousands of lawsuits by those exposed to or harmed by C8.
DuPont developed replacements for C8 in the manufacture of Teflon and stopped making it in 2013. However, C8 will be sticking around for quite a while. It doesn’t break down in the environment, and studies have shown that it’s just about everywhere. It’s even been found in dolphins in the Atlantic and polar bears in the Arctic.
Legal action against DuPont has come from numerous quarters. In one suit, dating to 2001 and settled for $343 million, 80,000 residents filed a class action against the company because of the contamination it allowed. In one of the first cases involving an individual, last year a jury awarded $1.6 million to a woman who claimed that the contamination led to her kidney cancer. DuPont has tried to get that verdict overturned on appeal, but so far without success.
This case is seen as an indicator of how many of the other pending cases might go. Whether DuPont will now move to begin settling these cases or will continue to fight each one in court remains unknown.
The scale and complexity of the DuPont Teflon litigation highlights how important it is to have an experienced law firm on your side in any product liability suit.
If you or a loved one have been injured as a result of a defective product, contact the Indianapolis Products Liability Attorneys of Wilson Kehoe Winingham. The lawyers at WKW can help you get the compensation you deserve. Call 317.920.6400 or fill out an online contact form for a free, no-obligation case evaluation.
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