January 23, 2013 – Earlier this month, DuPont submitted a request to consolidate nearly 30 federal environmental tort lawsuits filed over its controversial Teflon manufacturing agent perfluorooctanoic acid (commonly known as ‘C8’) into a multidistrict litigation (MDL). The C8 lawsuits were filed on behalf of Ohio and West Virginia residents who were either seriously injured or killed after drinking water contaminated with the dangerous chemical, which was released from DuPont’s Washington Works Plant in Parkersburg, West Virginia prior to 2004. Recent studies have confirmed C-8 to be a cancer-causing agent, and have linked the chemical to complications including kidney and thyroid disease, ulcerative colitis, testicular cancer, pregnancy-induced hypertension, and elevated levels of cholesterol.
What’s the problem?
DuPont issued its request with the U.S. Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation (JPML) on January 11 in an attempt to centralize all C8 lawsuits filed on the federal level to either the Southern District of Ohio or the Southern District of West Virginia. The company filed the petition to consolidate the claims so as to reduce duplicative discovery, to avoid conflicting rulings from different judges, and to move things through the litigation process as quickly as possible.
In 2005, a C8 class action lawsuit was brought against DuPont in order to award compensation to residents of Ohio and West Virginia who were injured or killed after drinking water from four districts which were contaminated by the chemical. As a result of the suit, an independent panel of epidemiologists was assigned to evaluate the potential health risks associated with C8. The team examined a cohort of approximately 70,000 individuals who were exposed to the chemical via their drinking water. The results of the study were released in July, confirming many of the ailments linked to C8.
In its motion for consolidation, DuPont noted that all the lawsuits filed against it on the federal level involve plaintiffs who allegedly suffer from one or more of the complications confirmed by the team of epidemiologists. The company stated that since the 2005 class action involved more than 70,000 test subjects, all of whom can independently sue for damages, that it expects the number of complaints filed over C8 exposure to grow substantially in the coming months and years.