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DuPont Settles Birth Defect Lawsuits

May 4, 2007 | AP The DuPont Co. has agreed to pay $9 million to settle two lawsuits alleging that the fungicide Benlate caused birth defects in children, according to court records and a federal regulatory filing.

In a Wednesday filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission, DuPont said it had reached a tentative settlement of lawsuits filed in 1997 on behalf of children in Britain and New Zealand born without eyes or with abnormally small eyes, defects also noted in the offspring of laboratory rats exposed to Benlate.

The plaintiffs alleged that the birth defects were the result of the children being exposed in the womb to Benlate.

According to DuPont, the settlement involves not only the six families named as plaintiffs in the lawsuits, but 26 other claimants.

The settlement comes after the Delaware Supreme Court last year upheld a lower court ruling granting DuPont summary judgment in a third lawsuit after rejecting opinions offered by two expert witnesses for the plaintiffs as inadmissible.

"If the settlement is approved by the court and finalized, it will resolve all birth defects claims known by DuPont to exist," the Wilmington-based chemical company said in its SEC filing.

DuPont spokeswoman Michelle Reardon said the company would not comment beyond the SEC filing. A Wilmington attorney representing DuPont in the litigation, did not immediately return a telephone call Friday.

In December, a Superior Court judge granted a request by attorneys in the case to stay the proceedings so that they could discuss a resolution short of going to trial. On April 5, Jacobs sent the judge a letter notifying him of the tentative settlement.

Also last month, six Hawaii plant nursery operators who claimed that contaminated Benlate damaged their crops settled their lawsuit against DuPont. That settlement was reached one day before a federal judge in Honolulu was set to start jury selection for a trial in which the growers were seeking as much as $30 million.

DuPont, which began manufacturing Benlate in the 1950s, decided to halt production in 2001 in the face of mounting crop damage claims. The company has paid more than $1 billion in settlements and legal fees on claims of damage from Benlate.

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