New trial scheduled in once-$381M case

Jessica M. Karmasek Oct. 19, 2010, 3:43pm

CHARLESTON, W.Va. (Legal Newsline) - A West Virginia circuit court judge has ruled that the retrial of part of a case involving the alleged contamination of a Harrison County community by DuPont will start in March.

Harrison Circuit Judge Thomas A. Bedell set the trial to start on March 7, according to The Charleston Gazette.

The trial will focus on whether the lawsuit was filed in a timely manner.

DuPont is alleged to have released cadmium, arsenic and lead from one of its smelters into the community of Spelter, just north of Clarksburg.

DuPont was originally ordered to pay $381 million, which included $140 million for medical monitoring. The West Virginia Supreme Court shaved a $196 million punitives award by 40 percent, but DuPont sought to increase that figure to 70 percent.

In June, the justices decided to reject DuPont's petition for rehearing, which asked the Court to further cut the punitive damages.

In their June opinion, the justices said DuPont entered a special master's recommendation of 70 percent too late.

"(A)s a result of DuPont's silence during oral argument, it has waived its right to contest the issue of an allocation of punitive damages by the circuit court," the opinion said.

The justices remanded the case and ordered a new trial to determine if the case was filed in a timely manner.

According to the Gazette, Bedell ruled that jurors in the new trial would decide on a class-wide basis whether residents filed their claims in a timely manner.

Also in Bedell's ruling, issued Wednesday, he rejected DuPont's request that the retrial be moved from Harrison County because of local publicity about the case, the Gazette reported.

From Legal Newsline: Reach Jessica Karmasek by e-mail at

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