COLUMBUS, Ohio (Reuters) - The first lawsuit against DuPont by a cancer patient who claims her disease was linked to a chemical used in the making of Teflon went to jurors at a U.S. federal court in Ohio on Tuesday after three weeks of testimony.
Plaintiff Carla M. Bartlett is trying to prove that C8, which leached into drinking water near one of DuPont’s plants in West Virginia, gave her kidney cancer and that DuPont’s recklessness is to blame.
DuPont disposed of C8 in the Ohio River for decades, and thousands of people have sued the company, saying they contracted a disease from exposure to the chemical.
“You are the first people to hear this story and the whole world’s watching,” Bartlett’s attorney Michael Papantonio told the seven-member jury hearing the case in U.S. District Court in Columbus, Ohio during closing arguments Tuesday. He argued that DuPont disregarded the dangers of C8 in order to make huge profits from the Teflon products it manufactured with the help of the chemical.
DuPont’s attorney, Damond Mace, Tuesday called Bartlett’s case a “house of cards.”
“Just because C8 is capable of causing kidney cancer doesn’t mean it caused Mrs. Bartlett’s cancer,” Mace said.
“This case is about Carla Bartlett, nobody else,” he said, pointing out that the burden of proof in the case lies with her.
Papantonio said DuPont hid the information it uncovered about the dangers of C8 from the community and from regulatory agencies.
Mace countered that DuPont did far more than any other company using C8 to make sure the chemical was safe.
The case in Judge Edmund A. Sargus Jr.’s courtroom is one of more than 3,500 filed against the chemical giant by people who lived in the area surrounding the DuPont Washington Works plant near Parkersburg, West Virginia.
The lawsuits claim that C8 caused serious health problems because it was in the area’s drinking water for more than 40 years.
Bartlett’s case and another set for Nov. 30 are the first to go to trial and are considered early tests of the potential liability that DuPont could face for the decades-long leak.
For nearly two decades, area residents have questioned the safety of C8, also known as perfluorooctanoic acid or PF0A.
A 2012 health study concluded there are probable links between the chemical and high cholesterol, testicular and kidney cancers, thyroid disease, pregnancy-induced hypertension and ulcerative colitis. That paved the way for the lawsuits.
Chemours Co, a recent spin-off of DuPont’s performance chemicals segment, is covering any potential liability from the cases.
Reporting by Kathy Lynn Gray in Columbus, Ohio; Editing by Alexia Garamfalvi and David Gregorio