Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Editors' Pick

DuPont Applies Experience of Past Lawsuits to C-8 Troubles
If life were a classroom, DuPont could get a gold star for learning a lesson well.

Last year, the company settled dozens of lawsuits involving Benlate, a fungicide allegedly tied to plant damage and birth defects. But now DuPont’s getting smart:
"When we first experienced the Benlate claims and litigation, we had never dealt with a mass tort litigation before," said DuPont vice president and assistant general counsel Tom Sager.

As a result, Sager said, DuPont in the early stages of the Benlate litigation tended to give growers the benefit of the doubt and was perhaps too willing to settle cases too early, encouraging more lawsuits.

"It wasn't an open checkbook, but there was not the kind of discipline and oversight we should have had in place," Sager said.

DuPont has since developed a 10-step planning process for complex litigation that encompasses everything from making sure the attorneys representing the company are well-versed in product liability to centralizing decision-making and keeping an eye on costs.

"This is clearly application of lessons learned," said DuPont spokesman Clif Webb.
DuPont’s new tests are lawsuits involving C-8, or perfluorooctanoic acid, used in manufacturing Teflon. As most readers well know, the chemical has contaminated water in eastern Athens County.

The company plans to apply its tough new tactics to dealing with C-8 suits and the remaining Benlate cases.
While DuPont lays the groundwork for the Teflon litigation, Sager said the company plans to "aggressively" defend the remaining Benlate cases because the plaintiffs do not have science on their side, or because they are making allegations or settlement demands "that we could not possibly agree to or accept."

"I don't look for any quick settlements of the remaining docket," he said.
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