W.Va. Court hears $381M appeal

John O'Brien Apr. 8, 2009, 2:30pm

CHARLESTON, W.Va. (Legal Newsline) - The West Virginia Supreme Court on Tuesday heard oral arguments in the appeal of a nearly $400 million verdict against industrial giant DuPont.

The verdict was one of three in the state in 2007 that ranked in the top seven nationally. The $381 million verdict was also the largest in a toxic torts case that year, and only Justice Robin Davis voted to not hear the appeals.

Harrison County residents alleged that DuPont poisoned the area around its Spelter plant with zinc, cadmium and arsenic. Gov. Joe Manchin got involved in the case by filing an amicus brief that asked the court to consider hearing cases with large punitive damages awards.

The award provides $55 million for remediation damages, $130 million in medical monitoring costs and $196.2 in punitive damages. Plaintiffs attorneys are estimated to be earning more than $100 million, also.

DuPont appealed the verdict and that the former owner of the plant, T.L. Diamond & Co., should be held partly responsible for the jury award. Landowners who are part of agreements from the 1920s that forbid lawsuits against a company bought by DuPont have also appealed.

According to a report in the Charleston Gazette, DuPont argued Tuesday that the jury shouldn't have been allowed to hear evidence of other DuPont controversies and that some of the plaintiffs filed their claims too late.

Chief Justice Brent Benjamin and Justice Thomas McHugh recused themselves from the case. Benjamin's old firm is representing T.L. Diamond, though DuPont argued that Benjamin should stay on the case.

From Legal Newsline: Reach John O'Brien by e-mail at john@legalnewsline.com.

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