Fisherman Wins $14M From DuPont

DuPont
AP
An oyster fisherman who claimed chemicals from a DuPont factory caused his rare blood cancer was awarded $14 million in actual damages in the first of 1,996 lawsuits involving the plant.

A jury found DuPont DeLisle at fault Friday for Glen Strong's multiple myeloma. Strong's wife received $1.5 million for loss of "love and companionship." The jury will meet again Monday to decide on punitive damages.

DuPont officials say they plan to appeal.

"There is no connection between our operations and any health effects alleged by the plaintiffs," said Mary Kate Campbell, a DuPont spokeswoman.

Strong and 1,995 other plaintiffs filed lawsuits claiming releases of dioxins from the plant caused a variety of health problems. The chemical company is defending each case individually.

DuPont DeLisle, about five miles from Strong's home, makes titanium dioxide, a white pigment used in paint, plastics, toothpaste and other products.

Victor Hawkins, who worked at the plant for 18 years, testified that releases from faulty disposal stacks often produced clouds of dust floating over the employee parking lot that took the paint off cars. Hawkins said DuPont later installed an automated car wash for workers to drive through at the end of the day.

"There's never been anything so egregious as it is here," said Al Hopkins, Strong's attorney. "This chemical company cares nothing about the people of south Mississippi."

Trial lawyers claimed dioxins — chemicals that in some forms that can be hazardous even in small amounts — entered Strong's body through the air and by eating oysters harvested from St. Louis Bay on the Gulf of Mexico.

DuPont called no witnesses in its defense Thursday, relying on testimony of Strong's doctor, who said there was no way to determine the root of multiple myeloma.

Just before the trial began, the state Supreme Court upheld sanctions issued by the judge in the case excluding nine DuPont witnesses from testifying in the case — a decision the company also plans to appeal.

"The jury was prevented from hearing from the real scientists, who would have proven that DuPont was not responsible for Mr. Strong's illness," Campbell said. "We don't blame the jury, because they only heard half the story."

The judge ruled that DuPont "deliberately avoided" depositions of its witnesses by not giving Strong's attorneys an opportunity to interview them before the trial.

  • Stephen Smith

    Stephen Smith is a senior editor for CBSNews.com