Friday, June 27, 2003
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State court of appeals to hear DuPont motion


PARKERSBURG - The West Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals has agreed to hear DuPont's motion for a writ of prohibition to block a Wood County circuit court order requiring DuPont to offer and pay for C8 blood tests to class members of a pending lawsuit.

DuPont is also asking the Supreme Court to overrule Circuit Judge George W. Hill's refusal to step down in the case. That issue will be referred to the chief justice for ruling, according to a spokesman for the Supreme Court clerk's office.

A hearing has been scheduled for Sept. 23 for the justices to consider DuPont's motion for the writ.

The justices announced their decision to consider the writ following a hearing Thursday. Also Thursday, Justice Joseph P. Albright of Parkersburg declined to step down from the case. DuPont had claimed Albright was an affected member of the class.

Plaintiffs' attorneys said that was not the case, arguing while Parkerburg had detectable C8 levels, they were not quantifiable, as had been in the case in areas such as Lubeck and Little Hocking. Plaintiffs argued residing in Parkersburg did not mean individuals were part of the class.

In a wirtten statement Thursday, DuPont officials said: "DuPont is pleased that the West Virginia Supreme Court has decided to review the rulings of the trial court and that we will be heard on the merits of the issues involved."

Speaking on behalf of the plaintiffs, attorney R. Edison Hill said, "We welcome the Supreme Court's review of Judge Hill's rulings."

In making his May rulings, Hill found C8 (ammonium perfluorooctanoate) "is toxic and hazardous to humans and is biopersistent, meaning that it is absorbed into and persists in the blood of humans exposed to C8." Hill also made the finding the Washington Works plant "contaminated the drinking water of the class members (in the pending lawsuit) with C8 by virtue of past and continuing releases" from the plant.

DuPont attorney Larry Janssen earlier said Hill's order made findings of fact "without the benefit of any scientific testimony."

"Nothing in DuPont's 50 years of experience with C8 indicates it is a hazard and nothing in the toxicity testing for C8 suggests the class members are at any risk whatsoever. Decisions about science and medicine must be based on evidence, not argument," Janssen said.

The original lawsuit was filed in 2001 by Lubeck/Washington residents against DuPont Washington Works and Lubeck Public Service District. LPSD has settled its portion of the suit.

The civil action alleges DuPont knowingly discharged C8 into water supplies in amounts exceeding the plant's own guidelines, concealing that information from the public. Plaintiffs claim C8 exposure has made them ill, including increased risks of cancer and other diseases.

They asked for funds from DuPont for medical testing and monitoring for possible health problems as a result of C8 exposure and damages they claim were incurred for alleged injuries and property damage.

The court earlier designated the "class" in the suit as "all persons whose drinking water is or has been contaminated with C8 attributable to releases from DuPont's Washington Works plant."

C8 is used by DuPont Washington Works in the manufacture of fluoropolymer resins.


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