DuPont Co. will pay as much as $80 million for medical monitoring to a class of West Virginia residents who claimed they were exposed to toxic substances from a company smelting facility, plaintiffs’ attorneys said.
DuPont said today it would pay $70 million to settle the lawsuit brought by people who lived near the company’s former facility in Spelter, West Virginia. The company also said it would establish a limited medical monitoring program, providing testing and check-ups for 30 years, without specifying the value of this part of the agreement.
“This is a medical monitoring program for as many as 8,500 people,” said Farrest Taylor, a lawyer for the residents who estimated this additional cost of the DuPont settlement at about $80 million. “Its doesn’t take long until you run into a fairly substantial expense.”
The settlement ends a lawsuit that brought a $251.7 million jury verdict in 2007, the fifth largest of that year, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. The jury also ordered medical monitoring, and in 2008 West Virginia Circuit Court Judge Thomas Bedell set the cost of this at $129.6 million.
The West Virginia Supreme Court later reduced the verdict and ordered a new trial on whether the residents waited too long to bring their claims. The trial, scheduled for March, was averted by the settlement.
The value of the medical monitoring portion of the agreement is “not yet known,” Dan Turner, a spokesman for Wilmington, Delaware-based DuPont, said.
“We can’t comment on what that number’s going to be,” he said in an interview. There will be an open enrollment for six months. The settlement lays out a pay-as-you-go process.”
The trial on the statute of limitations may have erased all claims against DuPont, Turner said.
The plaintiffs base their estimate of the value of the medical monitoring on Bedell’s 2008 decision covering a program lasting 40 years. The settlement covers “30 years instead of 40, with the only limitation that CT scans are not routine,” said Taylor, of Dothan, Alabama.
“The medical monitoring portion doesn’t have a cap,” said plaintiffs’ attorney Keith Givens, also of Dothan. “In essence, they’re paying the court-ordered amount.”
The Harrison County residents sued DuPont in 2004, claiming exposure to toxic substances from the smelter. They pursued the case as a class-action, or group, suit for owners of about 3,000 properties, as well as about 8,500 people.
Class members will be notified by mail and by public ads of the proposed settlement, DuPont said today in a statement. A court hearing is tentatively set for Dec. 30, the company said.
“DuPont is pleased to reach an agreement that places our focus on the Spelter site and the community and not on lengthy and contentious legal proceedings,” Thomas L. Sager, the company’s general counsel, said in the statement.
The case is Perrine v. DuPont, 04-C-295-2, Circuit Court, Harrison County, West Virginia (Clarksburg).
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