Exposure by Robert Bilott

Exposure by Robert Bilott

Author:Robert Bilott
Language: eng
Format: epub
Publisher: Atria Books
Published: 2019-10-07T16:00:00+00:00


20 HAIL MARY

Fall 2002

Cincinnati, Ohio

It had taken more than a year, multiple court-imposed deadlines—most of them missed—and my constant pressure for more documents until a threat of sanctions, and my small band of co-counsel, had finally gotten us to this point. It reminded me of the old adage “Be careful what you wish for—you just might get it.” Reviewing the new documents would be a massive undertaking—450,000 pages of new material—a cache so vast that DuPont had enlisted no fewer than fifty-six attorneys just to review them and produce them to us.

In DuPont’s rush to meet the court’s deadline, some documents must have slipped through the cracks. I realized that when the company began asking for things back. Some privileged documents, they claimed, had been produced by mistake. Some of them included emails or memos among DuPont’s attorneys or to their client discussing the PFOA matter. DuPont wanted them back. Immediately.

During the course of the litigation, we had usually resolved such issues amicably. But this time, DuPont’s lawyers had steam coming out of their ears.

I told DuPont we would not be returning some of the documents because they had waived privilege over them—either expressly in letters to us (after we’d questioned why they were privileged in the first place) or by producing similar documents on the same subject. Not only that, I demanded that DuPont turn over the rest of their documents on those same subjects—from both this case and the Tennants’ case. A whole new round of fireworks began. This was now an issue Judge Hill would have to decide.

I can only imagine the holy hell that broke loose behind closed doors somewhere deep inside DuPont over the waiver issues. Some of the documents the company had turned over from the lawyers provided incredibly vivid and clear insights into the internal conflict within DuPont and the increasingly fierce struggle among the legal, medical, and business departments.

I’d have a long wait before I found out if I could make use of the disputed documents as evidence. They were enlightening in any case but not of great practical value if I couldn’t present them or refer to them in court. But even the undisputed documents provided plenty of revelations. One thing in particular became clear: several of the Spilman lawyers who had represented DuPont were now regulatory officials at the West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection. After working on PFOA issues, they had left the law firm to accept their new government posts. Spilman had been the liaison between DuPont and the state during negotiations on the latest state consent order that had created the whole CAT Team process. (We now called it the CAT Sham.) In fact, the Spilman lawyers had helped draft the very consent order their new employer was now enforcing.

I had heard Ed and Larry joke about the revolving door between West Virginia government and industry. But government officials usually left regulatory agencies to take better-paying private sector jobs. Apparently, the door was now swinging in the opposite direction.



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