By Jessica Dye
NEW YORK (Reuters) – U.S. jurors ordered DuPont on Friday to pay an additional $500,000 in punitive damages to a man who said he developed testicular cancer from exposure to a toxic chemical used to make Teflon at one of its plants, according to a lawyer for the plaintiff.
The same jury in Ohio federal court had awarded $5.1 million in compensatory damages on Wednesday to 57-year-old plaintiff David Freeman.
It is the second trial in which a jury has found DuPont liable for claims involving exposure to perfluorooctanoic acid, known as PFOA or C-8, which is used to make products such as Teflon nonstick cookware, and it is the first time a jury has found that the company’s “actual malice” warranted an award of punitive damages.
DuPont is the named defendant in more than 3,400 lawsuits brought by individuals who said they developed one of six diseases linked to C-8 that they say leaked from a DuPont plant in West Virginia. However, a recent spin-off of DuPont’s performance chemicals segment, Chemours Co, will cover its liability.
Chemours spokeswoman Cynthia Salitsky said in a statement Friday that the company “retains its defenses” to DuPont claims for indemnification for the judgments.
Chemours shares were hit hard following the initial verdict earlier this week. But following the relatively modest punitive-damage verdict, Chemours shares surged 15.5 percent to $7.58 on Friday afternoon, and DuPont shares were up 2.5 percent at $63.46.
A first trial ended last year with an award of $1.6 million in compensatory damages to a woman who had kidney cancer, and no punitive damages. The federal judge overseeing the litigation has ordered DuPont to prepare for 40 trials a year starting in April 2017 for plaintiffs with cancers blamed on C-8 exposure.
A lawyer for the plaintiff, Mike Papantonio, said the punitive damages award appropriately reflected the jury’s finding about DuPont’s “conscious disregard” for residents near its West Virginia plant. “Now, DuPont has to decide how many of these hits can they take,” he said.
Chemours and DuPont both said they would appeal the verdict, which came in a so-called bellwether trial. DuPont spokesman Dan Turner said the verdict resulted in part from jurors being misled about the risks of exposure to C-8.
The outcomes of these early trials are not binding on other cases, but will help both sides value the remaining claims for settlement purposes.
(Additional reporting by Lewis Krauskopf in New York; Editing by Bernadette Baum and Matthew Lewis)