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This story appeared in the Gourmet Retailer on line edition this week:

DuPont May Face Class-Action Suit Over Teflon

APRIL 24, 2006 — Owners of Teflon-coated pots and pans in 15 states are seeking to have their cases combined into a $5 billion class-action lawsuit contending that DuPont Co. failed to disclose possible health risks from using the nonstick cookware, according to an Associated Press article in The Philadelphia Enquirer.

The lawsuits claim that DuPont continued to tell the government and consumers for years that Teflon was safe even though its own studies showed the material could become toxic when heated “enough to fry an egg,” according to Des Moines lawyer Kim Baer, who represents six plaintiffs from Iowa.

DuPont attorney Adam Hoeflich said that Teflon had a 40-year history of safe use and that no studies existed that showed the material could become toxic. “Not one study has shown that there is any harm to consumers,” he told the Associated Press.

U.S. Magistrate Judge Celeste Bremer did not signal at a hearing yesterday when U.S. District Judge Ronald Longstaff would rule on the request to certify the cases as a class action.

The plaintiffs will not seek to show that anyone has been injured as a result of using Teflon-coated cookware, Baer said. Instead, the case will likely center on DuPont’s failure to notify people of the possible alleged health risks of using Teflon-coated products.

If the cases are certified as a class action, plaintiffs’ attorneys would be able to argue that they represent potentially millions of consumers who have owned and used Teflon-coated products and seek damages for them all.

Hoeflich said DuPont objected to class-action certification. “We’re talking about different people who bought different cookware at different times and used it differently for a host of different reasons,” he said.

The U.S. District Court in Des Moines, Iowa, has begun to hear the cases from California, Colorado, Florida, Illinois, Iowa, Massachusetts, Michigan, Missouri, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, South Carolina and Texas. Another case is expected to be filed in West Virginia next week.