Corporate irresponsibility may have reached a new high, or a new low, depending on your perspective, with regard to the Cape Fear River. Tens of thousands of people depend on this river for drinking water. But to Chemours and DuPont, the river was just another dumping ground. Now, as corporate suits point fingers as to responsibility, many victims, including many children, are developing serious illnesses.
Drinking water poisoning claims are incredibly complex. So, victims need to partner with attorneys who have a vast amount of experience as well as a vast amount of resources. That’s what you get when your work with the Raleigh injury attorneys at Kirk, Kirk, Howell, Cutler & Thomas. We bring our diverse legal skills to bear in every case we handle, so we can clearly see all the angles. Additionally, because of our commitment to you, we put together a solid claim for damages without charging any upfront legal fees.
What You Should Know About GenX/PFAS
GenX is a trade name for a group of chemicals known as Perfluorinated Alkylated Substances. PFAS was first synthesized in the 1940s. By the 1980s, the DuPont plant in Fayetteville had already dumped large quantities of PFAS into the water, and that activity continued unabated for several more decades. When DuPont created the Chemours subsidiary in 2015, corporate suits estimated that river cleanup costs would be about $2 million. According to state officials, the actual cost might be closer to $200 million.
PFAS created an almost inpenetrable barrier between two substances. So, these chemicals were commonly used in both consumer products, like Teflon, and industrial products, like firefighting foam. Additionally, PFAS was a stable chemical which was easy to work with.
Adverse Health Effects of PFAS
Almost as soon as it appeared, the adverse health effects of PFAS became apparent. Over the years, this chemical has been linked to:
- Compromised immune system,
- Various forms of cancer, particularly leukemia,
- Heart disease,
- Decreased female fertility, and
- Developmental delays in children.
Furthermore, since it is such a stable chemical, PFAS remains in the body almost indefinitely. So, once victims ingest it, there is no telling how many adverse effects they may suffer. Moreover, much like asbestos fibers and other toxic materials, a small amount of PFAS does a great deal of damage.
Legally, companies like DuPont and Chemours are strictly liable for the damages their dangerous products cause. On this point, it does not matter how carefully, or how carelessly, the company acted.
Yet despite this straightforward rule, these claims are quite complex. Therefore, a Raleigh injury attorney must have a great deal of expertise in this area.
Connecting the Dots to Chemours and Toxic Exposure to North Carolina Residents
Establishing a causal relationship between a serious illness and chemical exposure is not easy. That’s especially true in the Tarheel State. North Carolina courts use a very strict standard when deciding to allow expert medical testimony.
There is a threshold issue. Before proving the link between PFAS and illness, victim/plaintiffs must establish a link between PFAS exposure and their illnesses. Attorneys have several methods available, and cancer is a good illustration of how they work.
Cancer is usually an environmental or genetic disease. If the victim has no genetic predisposition to cancer, the cause was probably environmental. So, our Raleigh injury attorneys look for things like cancer spikes in certain areas. The victim’s age may be a consideration as well. Young, healthy children do not develop leukemia out of nowhere.
As for the link between PFAS/GenX and the aforementioned chronic conditions, there is a large volume of peer-reviewed scientific evidence on this point.
Legal Issues Which Affect Your Claim for Damages
The burden of proof comes into play here. Victim/plaintiffs must only establish facts by a preponderance of the evidence (more likely than not). That’s the lowest standard of proof in North Carolina. So, a little evidence on the connection between GenX and a specific illness goes a long way.
THere is also the matter of the statute of limitations. Generally, victims have only two years to file tort claims. Most PFAS-related illnesses have substantial latency periods. People may be sick for years or even decades before they develop symptoms and they connect those symptoms to contaminated Cape Fear River water.
The delayed discovery rule protects victims in these situations. The SOL clock does not begin ticking until victims discover the full nature of their illnesses and they connect those damages to the defendant’s wrongful conduct.
Finally, as mentioned earlier, negligence or lack thereof is not relevant in the liability portion of a trial. But it is relevant with regard to punitive damages. These additional damages punish the negligent actor and help deter future misconduct. Frequently, in medical malpractice cases like chemical poisoning, the punitive damages substantially outweigh compensatory damages for medical bills and emotional distress.
Procedurally, most of these claims settle out of court. That’s why our Raleigh injury attorneys are also top negotiators. Our professional team stands up for victims in the conference room as well as the courtroom.
Contact Our Raleigh Attorneys for Your Toxic Exposure Case
A few sips of water from the Cape Fear River could result in a lifetime of pain and suffering. For a free consultation with an experienced Raleigh injury attorney, contact Kirk, Kirk, Howell, Cutler & Thomas. We have several offices throughout the area.