Dozens of West Virginia residents have filed lawsuits against the DuPont chemical company for contaminating drinking water. The federal lawsuits allege that the company discharged the chemical C8 into waters surrounding its Washington Works Plant near Parkersburg. Charleston lawyer Kathy Brown discusses the lawsuits in which she is representing the plaintiffs.
The water pollution is not new; the current lawsuits stem from a 2005 class action settlement. Brown says she has been filing the personal injury lawsuits since 2012. After the class action settlement, a science panel was formed to determine whether C8 was linked to six diseases: kidney cancer, testicular cancer, ulcerative colitis, thyroid disease, hypercholesterolemia, and pregnancy-induced hypertension (including preeclampsia).
Anyone who has one of these diseases and lives in one of six affected water districts in Ohio and West Virginia has a claim against DuPont. The creation of the science panel pushed back the statute of limitations. However, the statute expires at the end of January 2015. The diseases in question are serious ailments. The estimate is that there are 80,000 people who might have one of these diseases.
Brown points out that there are only eighty-some chemicals that are the subject of serious regulation. DuPont had been dumping C8 into the river since the 1950s. However, Brown says, DuPont was doing studies of its own during all that time, so it should have known that C8 could cause problems. The original manufacturer of C8 was the 3M company. When 3M decided to stop making the chemical, DuPont had to make its own. C8 is used in the production of Teflon, among other things. It’s been suggested that “if we tested people’s blood all over the world, everybody would have some C8 in their system” because Teflon is so widely used.
Since the class action lawsuit, DuPont has had to install filters to remove C8 from its effluent discharges. Eventually, DuPont will stop making the chemical. Brown says that there will be thousands of lawsuits. There have been 3,000-4,000 lawsuits filed so far, and more will surely follow. The people who lived in the affected water districts will receive free testing for the six diseases for the rest of their lives. That is part of the settlement that amounted to $234,000,000. Because people who develop the disease later may file a lawsuit, this litigation has the potential to continue for many years.
Kathy Brown is the principal in Kathy Brown Law PLLC, Charleston, WV. With over 22 years of experience in the field of investigative journalism from WSAZ, Ms. Brown had had a successful career as a news anchor and reporter before she began her career as an attorney. Her skills have led her to find and reveal several major errors in a WV state crime lab, leading to the exoneration of several innocent prisoners who were convicted unfairly. In Mingo County, she also uncovered the corruption that resulted in the indictment of over 80 people. With everything she has accomplished, she is and continues to be a tireless advocate of children, and she brings their critical issues to light in a regular WSAZ segment called "Kathy's Kids". The Legal Broadcast Network is a featured network of the Sequence Media Group.