(10/24/2007)
The attorney in a case against DuPont has gone on the offensive against the giant chemical company, saying a lot of people are sick and a lot of people have died because of toxic waste dumped at their smelter facility in Harrison County.

Mike Papantonio represented thousands of residents in the Spelter area of Harrison county, after which DuPont has been ordered to pay $400 million.

About $200 million of that total is in punitive damages. DuPont plans to appeal.

Company officials claim they were following the direction of the State Department of Environmental Protection at that site.

"The truth is they built a 100-foot mountain of toxins, toxins including arsenic, lead and cadmium, every day for 80 years. That mountain smoked like a volcano and put toxins all over the site, a 30-square mile site, every single day," said Papantonio.

He said DuPont failed the people of Harrison County as did the State Department of Environmental Protection.

"They let it happen because of a dysfunctional process," said Papantonio.

Steve Cohen, with Citizens Against Lawsuit Abuse, claims it's the legal climate and verdicts like this in West Virginia that discourages economic development.

"When you look at these big verdicts ... no wonder Forbes Magazine says we have the worst climate in the country to create jobs because of our legal system," said Cohen.

There were four phases to the trial that started earlier this year.

A Harrison County jury found the companies negligent and liable for the waste they dumped during Phase One.

In Phase Two, the companies were ordered to pay for medical monitoring for some 7,000 residents for the next 40 years, at an estimated cost of $100 million.

The award was $55 million for property damages in Phase Three. The jury came back last week with a punishment verdict of almost $200 million as part of Phase Four.

DuPont also lost with a multi-million dollar settlement of about $500 million, related to the contamination of public water in the greater Wood County area.


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