Sustained Outrage

DuPont to pay $70 million in Spelter settlement

This just in: Lawyers for DuPont and for the residents of the Harrison County community of Spelter have announced the proposed settlement of a major lawsuit over toxic pollution of the community by a DuPont smelter.

According to this news release from the two sides, DuPont will pay $70 million for cleanup costs and “other costs and expenses associated with the litigation.”  the company also agreed to provide periodic medical testing and check-ups to current and former residents for 30 years “so as to ensure that any effects from exposure are discovered and treated in a timely fashion.”

A copy of the proposed settlement is posted here, along with a public notice about a court hearing scheduled for Dec. 30 at which Harrison County Circuit Judge Thomas Bedell will be asked to approve the deal.

UPDATED: Under the settlement, an initial $4 million from the $70 million would be directed to an administrator to start the medical monitoring program. On top of that, DuPont would pay for the 30-year program — which is estimated to cost perhaps $80 million, making the proposed settlement’s total price more in the neighborhood of $150 million.

It’s also important to note that the settlement does not preclude the filing of future personal injury cases should the medical monitoring show that any residents were made ill by exposure.

Fees and costs for the residents’ attorneys will come out of the $70 million initial settlement amount.

According to the notice, lawyers for the residents intend to ask the court to also approve $30 million in legal fees and $11 million in expenses to be paid by DuPont.

This undated file photo provided by Jean Sartoris shows a zinc-smelting operation from Sartoris’ back yard when the plant was still in business in Spelter, W.Va. AP photo.

UPDATED: Oddly, the public notice — the only document released so far that contains the figures for the legal fees and costs — has been removed from the Web site set up by the parties to the lawsuit. So that link above is dead. I’ve reposted it here on the Gazette’s Web site.

UPDATED 2:  A new version of the public notice has been posted on the settlement Web site, this one with the legal fees and costs figure deleted.

Recall that DuPont had appealed a nearly $400 million verdict against the company and parts of the case had been scheduled for retrial next March before Judge Bedell. The settlement covers about 8,500 current and former residents of the area, according to court records.

UPDATED, NOV. 30:

Here’s a link to the print edition story we ran last week on this settlement, and here’s a link to a new court filing, the plaintiffs’ lawyers petition for fees and costs.