PFOA 2005
August 17, 2005. U.S. EPA finds C8 in drinking water near Circleville.
Associated Press. Akron Beacon Journal (Ohio).

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From The Environmental Working Group

August 17, 2005

Teflon Attorneys Win Trial Lawyer Award

Six West Viriginia and Ohio lawyers received the 2005 Trial Lawyer of the Year Award from the Trial Lawyers for Public Justice Foundation July 26 for their work on behalf of residents drinking Teflon-contaminated water from DuPont's nearby Washington Works plant. DuPont was sued for dumping the persistent Teflon chemical into community water supplies, although the company has known of its toxicity and potential to cause human health effects for decades.

The full release follows, and EWG's work on the Teflon chemical is here.

Trial Lawyers for Public Justice 

West Virginia, Ohio Attorneys Win 2005 Trial Lawyer of the Year Award for Settlement Holding DuPont Accountable for C8 Pollution

Three-Year Class Action Battle Will Result in Answers on Health Effects of Contamination in Drinking Water by DuPont Plant

Six West Virginia and Ohio lawyers received the 2005 Trial Lawyer of the Year Award from The Trial Lawyers for Public Justice (TLPJ) Foundation on July 26, 2005, for achieving a groundbreaking settlement in Leach v. E.I. DuPont de Nemours and Company, a class action lawsuit in which corporate giant DuPont was sued for damages and medical monitoring stemming from its leaking of perfluorooctanoic acid or “C8” – a chemical used in producing nonstick cookware – into the drinking water of Mid-Ohio Valley residents living near DuPont’s Washington Works plant in Parkersburg, West Virginia.

The nation’s single most prestigious honor for trial lawyers, the award is bestowed annually upon the lawyers who made the greatest contribution to the public interest by trying or settling a precedent-setting case. The award was presented at The TLPJ Foundation’s Annual Gala & Awards Dinner at The Carlu in Toronto to Charleston, West Virginia attorneys Harry G. Deitzler, R. Edison Hill, and James C. Peterson of Hill, Peterson, Carper, Bee & Deitzler, PLLC (Hill, Peterson), Larry A. Winter of Winter Johnson & Hill PLLC, and Cincinnati attorneys Robert A. Bilott and Gerald J. Rapien of Taft, Stettinius & Hollister LLP.

“These outstanding attorneys exemplify trial lawyers’ commitment to fighting injustice and protecting the health of American families from corporate polluters,” said outgoing Foundation President Jeffrey M. Goldberg of The Jeffrey M. Goldberg Law Offices in Chicago. “Thanks to the skills and perseverance of these stellar attorneys, we can now begin to discover the truth about C8 and its potential health effects.”

In Leach, a three-and-a-half-year class action battle in West Virginia’s Wood County Circuit Court, the attorneys uncovered evidence revealing that DuPont was aware of C8's potential toxicity as far back as 1961. Thanks to this “smoking gun” evidence, the plaintiffs’ team achieved an unprecedented $107.6 million settlement in February 2005. Not only does the settlement require DuPont to pay to determine whether the C8 it leaked into the public water supply will harm human health and the environment, but the bulk of the settlement funds will go toward creating the largest community health study ever, covering some 80,000 people living along the Ohio River. If a health link is established, DuPont must spend up to another $235 million to monitor the health of residents exposed to C8. In addition, DuPont will pay $10 million to install filters at six water treatment plants in West Virginia and Ohio to reduce C8 in the water supply immediately.  

Because C8 has been linked to heart attacks, breast cancer and testicular cancer in humans, and appears in animal species worldwide, the case is sparking intense national and international regulatory interest. The evidence uncovered by the plaintiffs’ team has led the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to initiate a $300 million suit against DuPont for illegally withholding data about the potential dangers of C8 exposure, and spurred the EPA on June 27, 2005, to reclassify C8 from a “suggested” to a “likely” human carcinogen.

The other finalists for the 2005 Trial Lawyer of the Year Award, also honored at the gala, were:

• Chicago-based lawyers Michael I. Behn of Futterman Howard, Steven A. Miller of Sachnoff & Weaver, Bruce C. Howard of Robert D. Allison & Associates, Michael Jaskula of Soule, Bradtke & Lambert, and Thomas Asch, then “of counsel” to Sachnoff & Weaver, who in U.S. ex rel. Robinson v. Northrop Grumman Corporation used the qui tam or “whistleblower” provisions of the federal False Claims Act to achieve a $133 million settlement and win justice after 16 years for two whistleblowers who were fired and blackballed for exposing massive fraud against the Pentagon in the mid-to-late 1980s at Northrop Grumman Corporation, one of the nation’s largest defense contractors. “Smoking gun” evidence uncovered by the plaintiffs’ legal team showed that Northrop concealed major accounting irregularities and misled Pentagon auditors.
• Russ M. Herman and Stephen J. Herman of Herman, Herman, Katz & Cotlar, L.L.P., in New Orleans, Bruce C. Dean of Bruce Dean, L.L.C. and Deborah M. Sulzer of Gauthier, Houghtaling, Williams, and Sulzer, both in Metairie, Louisiana, Robert L. Redfearn of New Orleans’ Simon, Peragine, Smith & Redfearn, Stephen B. Murray, Sr., and Stephen B. Murray, Jr., of New Orleans’ Murray Law Firm, Walter J. Leger and Christine L. DeSue of New Orleans’ Leger and Mestayer, Joseph M. Bruno and David S. Scalia of New Orleans’ Bruno and Bruno, Kenneth M. Carter of New Orleans’ Kenneth M. Carter, PLC, solo practitioner W. James Singleton of Shreveport, Raul R. Bencomo of New Orleans’ Bencomo and Associates, Meyer H. Gertler and Louis L. Gertler of New Orleans’ Gertler, Gertler, Vincent & Plotkin, Daniel E. Becnel, Jr., of Law Offices of Daniel E. Becnel, Jr. in Reserve, Louisiana, and Jack M. Bailey, Jr., of Shreveport’s Law Offices of Jack M. Bailey, Jr., who won a landmark May 2004 jury verdict in Scott v. American Tobacco Company, a class action suit against Big Tobacco. The Scott jury ordered the tobacco industry to pay $590 million for a 10-year program of smoking cessation strategies to help Louisiana smokers kick the habit – the nation’s first tobacco industry-funded program of this kind. The verdict covers hundreds of thousands of state residents who took up smoking between 1954, when the tobacco industry began its 50-year cover-up about nicotine addiction and smoking’s connection to disease, and May 1996, when the suit was filed.
• Patrick J. McGroder of the Phoenix firm Gallagher & Kennedy, P.A., and David L. Perry of Perry & Haas in Corpus Christi, Texas, who have made the country’s most popular police car –  Ford’s Crown Victoria Police Interceptor – safer for officers across the nation, achieving a confidential settlement in Schechterle v. Ford Motor Company for a Phoenix police officer severely burned in a post-collision fire caused by the vehicle’s dangerous design. Through eight other Crown Vic cases, and a far-reaching public education campaign, McGroder and Perry have forced Ford to retrofit approximately 350,000 police cruisers to correct the safety defect that has led to the burning deaths of 18 officers.

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