Sustained Outrage

Final C8 Science Panel reports due out Monday

The C8 Science Panel has scheduled a press conference for Monday morning in Parkersburg, to announce its final reports of its long investigation into the dangers of the DuPont chemical. Here’s the media advisory sent out this morning:

On the morning of Monday, October 29, final reports on whether there is a probable link between C8 and human disease will be delivered to the Wood County Court on behalf of the C8 Science Panel.  Immediately following submission to the court, the three Science Panel members will hold a press conference in Parkersburg/Vienna, WV at 10 am at the Wingate Hotel (next to Lowe’s).

The Science Panel has already released three rounds of its “probable link” reports, finding connections between C8 exposure and a variety of illnesses: High blood pressure during pregnancy, kidney and testicular cancer, and thyroid and bowel disease. The panel is now due to make public its findings regarding liver disease, kidney disease, osteoarthritis, parkinson’s disease, heart disease, hypercholesterolemia and hypertension.

Interestingly, there were a couple of stories in the Parkersburg paper today related to C8. One of the stories reported this development:

The first three West Virginia lawsuits have been filed in Wood County Circuit Court against DuPont alleging personal injury and, in one case, a death allegedly linked to C8 exposure.

These new suits were filed by Charleston lawyer Kathy Brown, who is apparently working with an Alabama law firm, Cory Watson Crowder & DeGaris, as the Parkersburg paper reported:

Brown is working with the law firm of Cory Watson Crowder & DeGaris, P.C. Cory Watson is a Birmingham, Ala., personal injury law firm known for handling similar multi-plaintiff and personal injury lawsuits. Cory Watson has also handled contamination litigation throughout the country involving other multi-national corporate defendants such as Monsanto, BP Oil, Pharmacia, Pfizer and Chevron.

But another story in the Parkersburg paper contains some interesting information about this whole situation. During a hearing yesterday concerning notifying members of the original class in the lawsuit that prompted the C8 Science Panel’s work, questions were raised about which lawyers should be handling any follow-up cases that allege actual illnesses from C8 exposure. Jim Lees, a lawyer for DuPont, reportedly objected to language in the notice mentioning the law firms who handled the original case, and Rob Bilott, the lawyer who really started this whole thing, responded:

Lees also objected to language that referenced talking to attorneys from the original three law firms that were the class action attorneys.

“We just want to make sure everyone understands if they go to another attorney, we have no control over what costs might be involved,” Bilott said.

“The individual class members are free to retain attorneys of their choice. You are saying here all claims have to handled exclusively by class counsel only,” Lees said. He noted there are currently four lawsuits pending against DuPont stemming from C8 exposure; three that were filed Friday in Wood County Circuit Court and one pending in federal district court in Columbus, Ohio, all involving other law firms.

Bilott noted when the court certified the common issues in the original suit, there were certain class-related issue and the three law firms originally involved remain “class counsel.”

“They (litigants) are free to retain other counsel relating to non-certified issues like calculation of individual damages, but the court still has jurisdiction over other issues,” Bilott said.

Plaintiffs’ counsel Harry Deitzler asked that Charleston lawyer Kathy Brown, who is the attorney in the three local lawsuits, be excluded as a party in the hearing Tuesday. Brown was allowed to remain. The judge said he would read her written objections to the notice. Deitzler also argued only the three original law firms were appointed to represent the class.

The story continued:

Class members could sue once the C8 Science Panel finds probable links, then they are free to file lawsuits, under the settlement agreement, Lees noted. “There is no class; they can proceed as they choose to be appropriate.”

Plaintiffs’ attorneys argued, under the court’s previous order, the only part released/dismissed related to diseases which the science panel said had no link to C8. Beane said he would review the original documents in the case before making a ruling.

Lees argued that class members with claims have a right to hire whom they choose to represent them. “We don’t want them driven to a website with representations that we feel are inaccurate. We need to stay out of the fight between the plaintiffs’ attorneys and they want your blessing. It needs to be a fair playing field,” Lees told the court.

Also interestingly, the Parkersburg paper reported this:

In a prepared statement, Dan Turner, DuPont Public Affairs, said, “Some years ago DuPont, with more than 2000 local employees working at our Washington Works Plant, was sued. Working together with local residents and attorneys DuPont funded a comprehensive medical study to determine any probable links between the operation of our Washington Works facility and possible health issues in the community. We also committed to fund a medical monitoring program for local residents.”

Turner sent on to say: “Recently, however, plaintiff attorneys began advertising for clients to now sue us for specific health issues in personal injury lawsuits. Lawsuits have been filed, including three in Wood County. Lawsuits such as these ignore family history and lifestyle choices as a primary cause of health issues and disease in specific individuals. DuPont will vigorously defend against any and all such lawsuits not based upon valid science while providing good jobs with good wages and benefits in our local community.”

Stay tuned …