DuPont argues C8 didn't cause woman's cancer
“Just because C8 is capable of causing cancer doesn’t mean that it did,” attorney Damond R. Mace said in U.S. District Court. “Just because (C8) is there does not mean it’s causing any disease.”
Mace gave DuPont’s opening statement in the case of Carla M. Bartlett, who is suing DuPont, claiming battery and negligence that caused emotional harm.
The trial, which began on Monday, is the first of thousands of lawsuits accusing DuPont of poisoning the water around its plant near Parkersburg, W.Va., and keeping it a secret.
Bartlett’s attorney, Michael Papantonio, said during his opening statement on Tuesday that DuPont executives and scientists knew for decades that C8, used to make Teflon products, could cause cancer and accumulate in the bloodstream. But rather than share that knowledge, DuPont continued to allow thousands of people to drink, bathe and play in water contaminated with the chemical for more than 40 years, Papantonio said.
He told jurors that he and other attorneys representing Bartlett will prove that DuPont flushed thousands of pounds of C8 into the water and released thousands of pounds of it into the air from its Washington Works plant, beginning in the 1950s. And they’ll prove that C8 caused Bartlett’s kidney cancer, he said.
Bartlett, 59, of Guysville in Athens County, claims that she developed kidney cancer in 1997 because she drank water contaminated by C8. Papantonio said thousands of documents from DuPont will prove her case.
DuPont officials “knew more about (C8) than anybody,” he said. They knew, he said, that “this stuff causes cancer” but didn’t tell anyone because they weren’t required to.
Papantonio said the C8 turned the water and land around the plant and downstream “into a toxic waste dump.”
Mace countered that C8 is not a regulated chemical in Ohio or nationally and “could be lawfully washed down the drain.”
He said DuPont officials were diligent over the years in reporting any problems they found with the chemical and monitoring employees who came in contact with C8.
“Remember,” he said, “the plaintiff (Bartlett) has the burden of proof.”
He said kidney cancer can result from many factors, including obesity, and he said that could be the factor for Bartlett.
The trial is the first of two test cases in multidistrict litigation that could help resolve more than 3,500 similar cases. The multidistrict litigation — so named because it involves numerous plaintiffs from more than one district court — was assigned to Judge Edmund A. Sargus Jr. more than a year ago.
Unlike a class-action lawsuit, in which multiple plaintiffs sue as part of one case, each plaintiff has a separate lawsuit because each involves individual medical problems. But because the cases have common elements, fact gathering is done jointly, and legal decisions affect all the cases.
The trial is another step in attempts by people who lived near the DuPont plant to make the corporation responsible for health problems residents say were caused by C8.
Studies showed high levels of the chemical in the area’s drinking water as early as 1984 and, in 1961, that it was toxic in animals.
After numerous lawsuits, DuPont began paying for a health study of residents in 2005.
In 2012, the study found probable links between residents’ C8 exposure and thyroid disease, ulcerative colitis, testicular and kidney cancers, pregnancy-induced hypertension and high cholesterol.