DuPont's Priorities: $860,000 for Blood Testing, Compared to $15 Million for Lawyers and Administrators
A plaintiffs' attorney who represented claimants in a class action lawsuit against chemical giant DuPont says the company has failed to honor the terms of the 2004 settlement, requiring them to test everyone who suffered exposure to the chemical C8.
Robert Bilott of Cincinnati, Ohio, who served as plaintiffs' counsel in the case and is filing a new lawsuit, also reports that DuPont has paid their own attorney over ten times what they have spent on medical testing for administering the program.
Under the terms of the settlement, DuPont is required to pay for medical screening and monitoring for the over 99,000 residents living in the vicinity of the Washington Works Plant, where the chemical used in the production of Teflon was produced. However, to date, the company has paid out only $860,000, covering the screening costs for only a small percentage of those victims.
Meanwhile, the attorney who is running the program has received $14.6 million in payments. Based on billing statements submitted to DuPont, New York City attorney Michael Rozen, who runs the program on behalf of the corporation, has been getting an average of $187,000 a month. In addition, DuPont has direct payments of $370,000 to HealthSmart for claims processing and $5.6 million to Garden City Group LLC for “administrative costs.”
According to Billot's filing, of the 99,000 potential participants, fewer than 6,700 have even been registered for the program as of the end of March. Of those, approximately 6000 have been accepted for the medical monitoring program, but less than a third of those have actually undergone blood testing. In his court filing of April 7th, Bilott wrote, “There should continue to be more than sufficient funds available to the director's office to cover the cost of such a C8 blood collection project.”
At the same time, a regional grass-roots watchdog group, Keep Your Promises DuPont, has been critical of the company's actions. According to the organization's spokesperson, Jeff Dugas, DuPont has been obstructing the program in an attempt to limit the number of participants – as well as their liability.
Speaking to the local Columbus Dispatch, Dugas said, “In a truly sinister ploy, DuPont has hijacked the program...we’ve seen for a long time now a pattern of obstruction and delay on the part of DuPont.” Information about the medical screening program was distributed to all potential participants, but Dugas says the language was highly technical and difficult for the recipients to understand. In addition, Rozen, who has yet to offer a comment on the matter, set up a few meetings to explain the program, but always scheduled them during the daytime when most people were at work.
It has been two years since the last such meeting was held.
C8, an abbreviation for perfluorooctanoic acid, or PFOA, has been shown to be responsible for a range of health problems, including cancer, kidney damage, pregnancy-related hypertension (preclampsia) and more. As of last summer, there were 3,500 individual lawsuits pending against DuPont and its corporate successor, Chemours, which now operates the Washington Works Plant in West Virginia.