COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — Jury deliberations were underway Wednesday in a civil trial over an Ohio woman's claims that she got kidney cancer after drinking water contaminated by a chemical from a DuPont plant.
The case is one of two that could influence thousands of similar lawsuits about the chemical giant's discharging of C8, which is used to make Teflon, The Columbus Dispatch reported (http://bit.ly/1L62MZt ).
Carla Bartlett, 59, of Guysville, is among 3,500 people who say they became ill because the company dumped C8 into the Ohio River and their drinking water from its Washington Works plant near Parkersburg, West Virginia. She used to live closer to the river.
"I have no compunction pointing my finger at them," Mike Papantonio, one of Bartlett's attorneys, said during his closing arguments Tuesday in the federal case.
Papantonio and co-counsel Gary Douglas argued that Delaware-based DuPont long knew the risks of C8 but showed "conscious disregard" for Ohio and West Virginia residents by downplaying or hiding the chemical's effects from the public. Papantonio said the company tested the blood of those working with the chemical.
The company did that because the workers would have the greatest exposure to the chemical, which some studies showed could possibly be linked to cancer, DuPont attorney Damon Mace told jurors.
Workers and plant officials drank the same water as residents, he said. Of its eight employees with cancer in 1989, only one had worked at length with C8, he said.
"Just because C8 is capable of causing cancer doesn't mean it did," Mace said. "DuPont has no liability here."
Jurors deliberated briefly Tuesday before recessing for the night. If they find DuPont negligent, they then must decide whether the company acted with malice against Bartlett. If so, a separate hearing would be held to decide punitive damages.
Information from: The Columbus Dispatch, http://www.dispatch.com