COLUMBUS - A status conference was conducted this week as part of the first pretrial proceedings since multiple C8 personal injury cases against DuPont were moved to the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Ohio.
A Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation earlier assigned and transferred all the cases, noting they shared "common questions of fact," according to the panel. Twenty-six suits, seven of which were filed in West Virginia, are pending.
The personal injury civil actions were filed on behalf of residents or former resident from six water districts that were part of the original class action lawsuit. The six districts are Belpre, Little Hocking, Pomeroy and Tuppers Plains in Ohio and Lubeck Public Service District in Wood County and Mason County PSD in West Virginia.
The C8 Science Panel, agreed upon by both sides as part of a settlement in the original class action suit, in October released a final report on probable links between disease and C8 exposure. The panel announced it found probable links between C8 exposure and medically diagnosed high cholesterol, kidney cancer, thyroid disease, testicular cancer, ulcerative colitis and pregnancy-induced hypertension including preeclampsia.
C8, also known as perfluorooctanoic acid or PFOA, is a man-made chemical used in manufacturing products including nonstick cookware, protective finishes on carpets and water-resistant clothing.
As part of the 2005 class action lawsuit settlement, a three-member science panel of independent epidemiologists was to determine whether there was a probable link between C8 exposure and human disease. Nearly 70,000 people in the six affected water districts were tested and had medical histories taken in addition to several other studies including DuPont employees.
According to Harry Deitzler, an attorney representing the plaintiffs, there is a plaintiffs hearing committee established and everything will be consolidated and coordinated so that the exchange of documents and other business is done once instead of several with each individual case.
"It's an efficient, time-saver for all involved," Deitzler said.
The consolidation involves all the cases filed in West Virginia in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of West Virginia and in Ohio. This week's status conference was held before Judge Sargus and Magistrate Judge Elizabeth Preston Deavers.
At the conclusion of this process, the cases could be transferred back to their original home districts, or they could stay with the judge who has handled the pretrial matters, according to Deitzler.
DuPont officials reiterated their earlier statement: "Lawsuits such as these ignore family history and lifestyle choices as a primary cause of health issues and disease in specific individuals. DuPont will vigorously defend against any and all such lawsuits not based upon valid science while providing good jobs with good wages and benefits in our local community."