Glen Strong, an oyster fisherman of Bay St. Louis, Mississippi, claimed that his rare blood cancer (multiple myeloma) was caused by exposure to dioxin from DuPont’s plant located about five miles from his home. A jury agreed and awarded Mr. Strong $14 million in actual damages.
In what is only the first of 1,996 cases filed against this particular DuPont company known as DuPont DeLisle the jury also awarded Strong’s wife, Connie, $1.5 million for her derivative claim for emotional damages.
The DuPont DeLisle plant makes titanium dioxide, a white pigment used in paint, plastics, toothpaste, and other products.
Mr. Strong’s attorney was reported as stating: "This chemical company cares nothing about the people of south Mississippi."
The state Supreme Court decision to uphold sanctions issued by Circuit Judge Billy Joe Landrum excluding nine DuPont witnesses from testifying occurred just hours before the trial and clearly impacted the outcome.
As a result DuPont was unable to call any witnesses in its defense and had only the testimony of Strong’s doctor, who had testified there is no way to determine the root of multiple myeloma, to rely on.
Judge Landrum had ruled that DuPont "deliberately avoided" depositions of its witnesses by not giving Strong’s attorneys an opportunity to interview them before the trial.
According to a DuPont spokesperson, the company will appeal the decision, claiming an unfair trial, and will continue with its plan to defend each case on its own merits.
DuPont’s position is that the jury was prevented from hearing from real scientists who were ready to testify and prove the company was not responsible for Mr. Strong’s illness.
DuPont’s spokesperson also stated: "We don’t blame the jury, because they only heard half the story."
The jury deliberated for about two hours before arriving at a 9-3 verdict in favor of Strong. They will reconvene on Monday to determine if (and how much) punitive damages should be awarded.
Since the case was filed before Jan. 1, 2003, it is not affected by $20 million “cap” recently adopted by the Mississippi Legislature.