A federal jury in Kentucky has ordered DuPont to pay more than $1.25 million to six people who were injured when fuming sulfuric acid spilled from an eastern Kentucky plant five years ago. The jury found DuPont legally responsible for skin burns, eye irritation and respiratory and eye problems sustained by neighbors of the company’s plant in Wurtland. The leak, which happened in 2004, stemmed from a cracked pipe at the plant. It resulted in sulfur trioxide, a chemical that formed white clouds composed of tiny droplets of sulfuric acid, being released into the air. The injured ranged in age from 18 months to 80 years old at the time of the spill. DuPont argued that it gave warnings to neighbors about the leak and was not responsible for any injuries.
The lawsuit is being tried in four phases. The decision in the first phase sets the stage for another 173 people who sued DuPont over the leak to collect damages. The trial in the first phase determined liability for the leak and whether DuPont should have to pay punitive damages for all the Plaintiffs. The remaining cases will focus on the amount of damages to be awarded. Jurors awarded just under $130,000 in compensatory damages for past and future medical bills, then awarded ten-times the compensatory damages as a punitive award for the Plaintiffs. Under a ruling by the trial judge, DuPont cannot appeal the verdict until the claims by all 179 Plaintiffs’ are resolved. No trial date for the other cases has been set, but the judge has indicated the second trial will take place in October.
DuPont also experienced a 1995 leak in which 23,800 gallons of sulfuric acid escaped into the air and more than 1,000 people were evacuated. For that accident, DuPont agreed, among other things, to pay the Department of Justice and the EPA $1.5 million. The company also faces additional litigation from the 1995 spill case. Louise M. Roselle, a lawyer with the Cincinnati law firm of Waite, Schneida, Bayless & Chesley, represented the Plaintiffs in the recent litigation and did an outstanding job.
Source: Associated Press
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