Read the settlement: http://blogs.wvgazette.com/watchdog/CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- DuPont Co. has agreed to a settlement valued at $150 million to resolve a bitter court battle over the pollution of the Harrison County community of Spelter, lawyers for the company and area residents announced Tuesday.
DuPont will pay $70 million and fund a 30-year medical testing program estimated to cost $80 million in a deal that still faces a review by 8,500 area residents and needs the approval of Harrison Circuit Judge Thomas Bedell.
If finalized, the settlement would eliminate the need for a retrial in March on the key issue of whether residents filed their original lawsuit within the legal time limits for doing so.
DuPont had appealed a variety of issues in a three-year-old jury verdict that awarded residents nearly $400 million for property cleanup, medical monitoring and punitive damages. The Supreme Court upheld most of the verdict, but ordered a new trial on the statute of limitations issue.
Both sides were also facing the possibility of continued appeals after the retrial, and said they were happy to end the litigation.
"DuPont is pleased to reach an agreement that places our focus on the Spelter site and the community and not on lengthy and contentious legal proceedings," said DuPont general counsel Thomas L. Sager.
Farrest Taylor, lawyer for the residents, said, "We're very excited about the settlement. You've got a fairly substantial settlement here."
The Spelter site, just north of Clarksburg, was originally a DuPont gunpowder mill that opened in 1899. After that facility burned down, Grasselli Chemical Co. built a zinc smelter and a company town. DuPont bought Grasselli in 1928 and operated the smelter until 1950, when an internal report showed air-pollution upgrades would cost $325,000.
In the late 1980s, federal environmental officials began investigating the site. DuPont got involved, eventually repurchased the smelter and steered the cleanup toward the state Department of Environmental Protection's voluntary program, rather than the more stringent federal Superfund program.
Under the deal, $4 million from a $70 million guaranteed settlement would go toward kick-starting the medical monitoring program and toward cash payments for the nearly 6,000 current and former residents who do not own property in the area, said Charleston lawyer Jim Lees, who represented DuPont in settlement talks.
"The availability and amount of cash payments to property owners and medical monitoring class members will depend upon various factors, including, but not limited to, the total number of class members participating in the medical monitoring class," the settlement document states. "The amount of individual cash payments cannot be determined at this time."
The other $66 million of the $70 million will go toward property remediation of pollution in the Spelter area and legal fees and costs for the residents.