DuPont loses challenge over cancer victim's $40 mln verdict in PFAS case

The logo for DuPont de Nemours, Inc. is seen on the trading floor at the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) in Manhattan, New York City, U.S. REUTERS/Andrew Kelly
  • U.S. appeals court said findings in other, related cases applied to Travis Abbott's case
  • Abbott said his multiple cancer diagnoses resulted from drinking water tainted by the chemical PFOA
  • PFOA was used in nonstick household products such as Teflon

(Reuters) - A federal appeals court has upheld a $40 million verdict for a cancer survivor who sued E.I. du Pont de Nemours and Co after years of exposure to a toxic chemical that it manufactured.

The 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals said Monday DuPont could not challenge the verdict, which relied on a finding in related cases that PFOA, a chemical discharged by DuPont into public waterways, was linked to the man's cancer.

“The key concept applicable here is that DuPont’s conduct impacted the plaintiffs in virtually identical ways — contamination of their water supplies with a carcinogen,” wrote Circuit Judge Jane Stranch for the panel.

The decision upheld a jury verdict awarded to Travis Abbott in 2020.

PFOA is among a class of chemicals known as per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) that have been used in nonstick products such as Teflon, and are associated with certain cancers. They are referred to as “forever chemicals” because they don’t easily break down in the human body or nature.

Abbott sued in 2017, claiming prolonged exposure to PFOA in his drinking water caused him to have testicular cancer twice.

DuPont has said Abbott’s level of exposure was unlikely to have caused his cancer.

A jury awarded Abbott $40 million after a 2020 trial in Ohio federal court, finding that PFOA was likely the cause of his illness.

Abbott's case against DuPont is one of thousands in multidistrict litigation (MDL) consolidated in Ohio. The lawsuits claim that the company poisoned drinking water by discharging the chemical PFOA into waterways from its plant in Parkersburg, West Virginia.

Dupont challenged the verdict, claiming it had been unfairly kept from raising defenses based on the specifics of Abbott’s alleged exposure.

The company claimed that a settlement reached in 2005 shouldn’t have been used to limit it from challenging every instance where an individual may have developed cancer after low level exposure. Juries in two bellwether cases in the MDL had earlier determined the settlement had broadly barred that defense.

Representatives of Abbott and DuPont didn't immediately respond to requests for comment Tuesday.

In a partial dissent, Circuit Judge Alice Batchelder said the test cases “lacked the specificity to bind the thousands of remaining cases.”

The case is In re Abbott v. E. I. du Pont de Nemours & Co, 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, No. 21-3418.

For Travis Abbott: Matthew Wessler of Gupta Wessler; and Jon Conlin, Elizabeth Chambers and Jerome Tapley of Cory Watson Attorneys

For DuPont: Damond Mace, John Burlingame, Lauren Kuley and Colter Paulson of Squire Patton Boggs; and Aneca Lasley of Ice Miller

Read more:

California sues 3M, DuPont over toxic 'forever chemicals'

DuPont, Chemours beat back lawsuit over chemicals in N.Y. drinking water

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