Lawsuits over the leaking of a chemical used to make Teflon have been sticking tightly to DuPont, and the company has now lost the first of around 3,500 cases. A federal jury in Ohio found that DuPont's contamination of the Ohio River contributed to plaintiff Carla Bartlett's kidney cancer and ordered the company to pay her $1.6 million in compensatory damages, the Columbus Dispatch reports. Her lawyers argued that DuPont knew C8 could cause cancer and showed "conscious disregard" for the public by downplaying its dangers after dumping the chemical into the river from a plant near Parkersburg, W. Va., the AP reports. "They made the Ohio River their personal toxic dumping ground so they could make more money on Teflon," an attorney said in closing arguments, per Bloomberg.
The thousands of plaintiffs in West Virginia and Ohio say they contracted one of six diseases linked to C8, which was used at the plant for decades, reports Reuters. The Bartlett case was the first of two test cases to go to trial, and Bartlett's attorneys tell the Dispatch that since this was the one that DuPont picked, considering it among the weaker cases, the company is in deep trouble. A litigation analyst, however, tells Bloomberg that the company actually "dodged a major bullet" because the jury decided not to award punitive damages, which could have been much higher. DuPont plans to appeal the case, and experts believe the company will probably end up settling with the plaintiffs—but not until there have been a few more trials. (A formerly toxic site in Colorado is now home to an endangered species.)