The Dupont Co. announced a binding memorandum of understanding related to the environmental liabilities of pollution stemming from man-made chemicals—per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS)—that are linked to cancer, according to a January 23, 2021 report from the Associated Press.
On December 16, 2020, the Delaware Supreme Court upheld the dismissal of a legal claim in which Chemours accused DuPont of lowballing the extent of environmental liabilities that spinoff business Chemours would take on after branching off from DuPont.
According to Chemours’ complaint, DuPont estimated a top end of liability for the 3,500 PFOA cases at $128 million. Instead, the settlement reached $671 million. Ultimately, DuPont agreed to pay half the settlement amount.
Terms of the Agreement
Under the terms of the memorandum, DuPont and Chemours will share the costs of legal disputes tied to PFAS’ environmental liabilities and will resolve those disputes. The agreement also entails the establishment of an escrow account for resolving future PFAS liabilities that connect with conduct occurring prior to July 1, 2015.
Around 95 pending cases in multidistrict litigation in Ohio will be resolved with an $83 million settlement. The settlement will be divided evenly among Chemours, DuPont, and a company that was once the agriculture division of DowDuPont, Corteva.
The Lawsuits at Issue
The lawsuit involved residents of Ohio and West Virginia. These 80,000 individuals claim they drank water that had been contaminated from DuPont’s Parkesburg, West Virginia facility.
Additionally, individual personal injury cases were filed by more than 3,500 individuals. These plaintiffs claimed that they suffered any of six PFOA-linked diseases. In 2017, DuPont agreed to settle those cases.
The first trial for more than 100 cases filed since the settlement awarded $50 million to a man who developed testicular cancer as a result of DuPont’s PFAS. Another trial, however, ended in mistrial for a woman who developed kidney cancer.
Damages Related to PFAS
“Forever chemicals,” dubbed for their quality of persisting in the environment, sit at the crux of the legal disputes at hand. These chemicals are formally known as PFAS, and they are used to produce Teflon, water-repellent clothing and gear, and firefighting foam.
Some states have filed lawsuits alleging that these forever chemicals have polluted land, air, and water. Other states have filed claims on behalf of residents, arguing that injuries suffered by residents also affects the state.
Because of the significant health risks associated with PFAS, plaintiffs in other cases are demanding compensation for declining property values.
The most common PFAS health risks stem from exposure to the chemicals in the workplace and from drinking contaminated water, consuming food packaged in PFAS-containing materials, and using products that contain PFAS (cookware, stain-resistant carpets, cleaning products, and cosmetics). According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), these risks include:
- Reproductive development effects
- Liver and kidney damage
- Immunological effects
- Increased cholesterol levels
- Thyroid hormone disruption