DuPont appeal will be heard by W.Va. SC

By John O'Brien | Sep 25, 2008

CHARLESTON, W.Va. (Legal Newsline) - The West Virginia Supreme Court has accepted the appeal of industrial giant DuPont, which is hoping to overturn a $381 million Harrison County verdict against it.

Arguments over three issues in the case, the largest jury award in a toxic torts case last year, will be heard. Only Justice Robin Davis voted not to hear them.

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 asking 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.

The Chesapeake Energy, Massey and DuPont verdicts were three of the seven highest in the country last year.

"I think anything of this magnitude needs another look," Justice Larry Starcher said, according to a report in the Charleston Gazette.

"I think we made a mistake not taking in the Wheeling-Pittsburgh Steel case. I think we made a mistake by not taking in the oil and gas case from my home county of Roane County."

Earlier this year, the Court unanimously voted not to hear Massey Energy's appeal of a $220 million Brooke County verdict in favor of Wheeling-Pittsburgh Steel. Massey said it would continue to challenge the verdict, which carried a $100 million punitive damages award.

Also unanimously, the justices decided not to hear a $404 million Roane County verdict against Chesapeake Energy and NiSource. Included in that verdict was $270 million in punitive damages.

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

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