Punitives will stay cut in W.Va. class action

John O'Brien Jul. 13, 2010, 10:34am

CLARKSBURG, W.Va. (Legal Newsline) - Plaintiffs in a once-$381 million class action lawsuit against DuPont have accepted the West Virginia Supreme Court's decision to reduce the award by nearly $100 million.

Attorneys for the class told Harrison County Circuit Court Judge Thomas Bedell that they will not fight the decision and are ready to start a new trial in the case, the Charleston Gazette reported.

The justices decided last month to reject DuPont's petition for rehearing that asked the court to further cut punitive damages in the lawsuit, which involved the alleged contamination of a Harrison County community.

The court had shaved a $196 million punitives award by 40 percent, but DuPont sought to increase that figure to 70 percent.

The opinion said DuPont entered a special master's recommendation of 70 percent too late.

The justices reduced the $196 million punitive damages award in the case by 40 percent because defendants cannot be assessed for medical monitoring costs as a part of punitives. Another $20 million was also taken out.

Medical monitoring costs covered $140 million of the verdict. DuPont is alleged to have released cadmium, arsenic and lead from one of its smelters.

The justices remanded the case and ordered a new trial to determine if the case was filed in a timely manner. DuPont also argued that the court should order a trial for each member of the class.

When a class member had the requisite knowledge to trigger the statute of limitations is plaintiff-specific, DuPont claims.

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

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