DUPONT WENT TO COURT this week, defending its use of C8, the chemical that spread from the company’s Parkersburg, West Virginia, plant into the drinking water of some 80,000 people in West Virginia and Ohio. A jury in Columbus, Ohio, is now hearing the case of Carla Bartlett, a 59-year-old woman who developed kidney cancer after drinking C8-contaminated water for more than a decade.
As The Intercept reported in a three-part series last month, Bartlett’s is the first of some 3,500 personal injury and 37 wrongful death claims stemming from the 2005 settlement of a class-action suit filed on behalf of people who lived near the plant. Another trial over the chemical, which for decades was used in the production of Teflon and many other products, is scheduled for November. Together, the “bellwether” cases, six in all, are expected to give attorneys on both sides a sense of whether the rest of the claims will proceed or settle — and for how much.
Bartlett’s attorneys, including Robert Bilott, who has been working on C8 since taking the case of a West Virginia farmer named Wilbur Tennant in 1999, argue that DuPont is guilty of negligence, battery, and infliction of emotional harm for exposing Bartlett to C8 in her drinking water.
DuPont’s attorneys, who summarized their case in opening arguments and will present their witnesses later in the trial, insist that the company bears no responsibility for the kidney tumor for which Bartlett was treated in 1997. “Nobody at DuPont expected that there would be any harm from the extremely low levels of C8 that were reached in the community,” said DuPont’s attorney Damond Mace in his opening argument.