In the recently-released film, Dark Waters, Mark Ruffalo stars as the real-life environmental attorney Robert Bilott of Taft Stettinius & Hollister. The movie depicts Bilott waiting several painstaking years for the release of a science panel study—assembled via settlement agreement with DuPont—to confirm the human health effects of perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA). Absent from the film, however, is Bilott’s involvement in per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) litigation in New Jersey during that waiting period. Bilott, along with the New Jersey environmental firm Lieberman & Blecher, filed suit in federal court in 2006 on behalf of a class of plaintiffs who drank water contaminated with PFAS emitted from the DuPont Chambers Works site in Deepwater. Rowe v. E.I. DuPont de Nemours & Co., No. 1:06-cv-01810 (D.N.J.). In the Rowe case, the class was certified based on a private nuisance claim, and the plaintiffs obtained clean water as part of a settlement. The $8.3 million settlement was approved in 2011.
In addition to the successful resolution of the Rowe litigation, “The Chambers Works case was also a vehicle for continuing discovery against DuPont, allowing me to learn about DuPont’s actions in New Jersey,” recalls Bilott. In his new book, “Exposure: Poisoned Water, Corporate Greed, and One Lawyer’s Twenty-Year Battle Against DuPont” (Atria Books 2019), Bilott describes the information obtained through the Chambers Works case as “absolutely essential” to the bellwether personal injury cases tried in the Southern District of Ohio, the costly verdicts of which triggered the $671 million settlement depicted in Dark Waters.
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