DuPont hit with $2 million verdict over Teflon-making chemical

By Erica Teichert

(Reuters) – A U.S. jury in Ohio on Wednesday ordered DuPont (DD.N) to pay $2 million to a man who said he developed testicular cancer from exposure to a toxic chemical leaked from one of the company’s plants, according to the plaintiff’s lawyer Robert Bilott.

The federal jury also found DuPont acted with actual malice, raising the possibility of punitive damages, Bilott said. It is the third time jurors in Columbus, Ohio federal court have found DuPont liable for injuries linked to perfluorooctanoic acid, known as PFOA or C-8, which is used to make Teflon.

There are more than 3,400 lawsuits pending against DuPont over the chemical leak, which allegedly contaminated local water supplies. Chemours Co (CC.N), the performance chemicals unit which was spun off from DuPont last year, has an agreement to cover the costs of such lawsuits.

Chemours spokeswoman Cynthia Salitsky stressed in a statement that Dupont was the named defendant in the cases and would be directly liable. She also noted that the litigation would likely continue for many years and the final outcomes could be different from the interim results.

DuPont declined to comment on the verdict, citing the pending punitive damages phase of the trial.

The plaintiff, Kenneth Vigneron, claimed he was exposed to C-8 from drinking the water in Washington County, Ohio, which is along the border with West Virginia, where the Dupont plant was located.

DuPont has lost two other recent trials over C-8. The first ended in October 2015 with an award of $1.6 million to a woman who claimed the chemical caused her to develop kidney cancer.

In July 2016, a jury in a case involving a plaintiff with testicular cancer also found Dupont acted with actual malice. The jury returned a verdict of $5.1 million, which was later bolstered with $500,000 in punitive damages.

Those two trials were test cases, or bellwethers, meant to determine the major issues and gauge the scale of liability for the remaining litigation. Wednesday’s verdict comes in the first non-bellwether trial, with 39 more cases slated to go to trial in Columbus in the next year.

(Reporting by Erica Teichert; Editing by Bernard Orr)

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