Avalanche of lawsuits in Wood Co. tied to C8 exposure

PARKERSBURG — More than 100 lawsuits were filed in Wood County Circuit Court Wednesday against DuPont.

Another 67 lawsuits are to be filed today and over the next week 800 will be filed, said Harry Deitzler, who is the attorney of record for the cases.

Deitzler said Thursday the first 137 cases are mainly individuals from the area served by the Lubeck Public Service District and later cases will be filed for those from other affected areas. Deitzler said the filings are the same with a few differences.

“Each case is 50 pages and 48 of the pages are identical,” he said. “The differences are in how they were affected.”

According to the suits, the plaintiffs allege DuPont allowed C8, or perfluorooctanoic acid or PFOA, to pollute the water in areas near the Washington Works plant.

They also allege that concerns about C8 were raised as early as 1954 and concluded by 1961 that it is a toxic substance and, according to the company’s toxicology chief, “should be handled with extreme care.”

In 1976 DuPont was aware researchers found organic fluorine in human blood samples from blood banks in the U.S. they believed to be a potential result of C8 exposure, the suits allege. In 1978 the supplier of the chemical, 3M, had collected blood samples from its workers exposed to C8 and those workers’ samples had organic fluorine in their blood, the suits allege.

A call to DuPont seeking comment on the filings was not returned.

In the suits they charge DuPont with negligence; concealment, misrepresentation and fraud; strict liability and defective product, failure to warn and conspiracy; unfair and deceptive practices, negligence per se and prima facie negligence; past and continuing trespass and battery; negligent, intentional and reckless infliction of emotional distress and outrage and punitive damages.

Deitzler said cases will be filed on behalf of people living outside of Wood County and West Virginia, because they allege DuPont, in Wood County, West Virginia, is the source for what made them ill.

Earlier a science panel found probable links between C8 exposure and pregnancy-induced hypertension, preeclampsia, testicular cancer, kidney cancer, ulcerative colitis, thyroid disease and medically diagnosed high cholesterol, he said.

Deitzler said the cases are being filed because they are near the time for the statute of limitations to expire because DuPont will not agree to allow the time frame to be extended.

According to the suit, judgment is to be determined at trial for compensatory damages in an amount exceeding the minimum jurisdictional requirement to be more specifically determined at trial, punitive damages to be determined at trial, damages provided pursuant to West Virginia code 46A-6-101, the cost and disbursement of the action including attorney fees, prejudgment and post-judgment interest and for all other general relief, whether compensatory, punitive, equitable or injunctive relief as the court may deem appropriate.

Deitzler said the cases are not eligible for filing as a class action suit because of the differences in how the plaintiffs have been affected.

“Some have died and others have survived kidney cancer, testicular cancer or the level of impact the particular disease on the individual,” he said. “There are separate issues to each case.”

Deitzler said DuPont has indicated the company will move to have the cases removed from Wood County Circuit Court to the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of West Virginia.