A whistleblower lawsuit filed under the False Claims Act accuses DuPont of failing to report a chemical leak of cancer-causing gas from a plant in Louisiana, according to The Times-Picayune.
The Toxic Substances Control Act requires manufacturers, processors and distributors of chemical substances to report when a substance poses a substantial risk of injury to health or the environment. Failure to submit a report constitutes a violation of the law with a civil penalty of up to $25,000 for each day in violation.
The False Claims Act imposes civil liability for knowingly and improperly avoiding an obligation to pay money to the U.S. Government. This is known as a reverse false claims act case because it involves the avoidance of an obligation to pay rather than a wrongful payment by the federal government.
The leak of sulfur trioxide was reportedly ongoing for months. The chemical is used in the manufacturing process at the chemical plant, which is located near a residential neighborhood and school.
The lawsuit was filed by Jeffrey Simoneaux, a 22 year employee of DuPont working in the Burnside sulfuric acid plant. Simoneaux reported the leak to his superiors and says he lost out on a potential job opportunity at the company as a result.
Even though it isn’t the largest segment of cases under the False Claims Act, environmental fraud is not unusual. Past environmental lawsuits under the Federal False Claims Act have also involved false claims for payment by the U.S. Government for environmental cleanup and disposal of toxic waste.
States have also pursued false claims against companies recently for payments made in cleanup efforts. In February, Massachusetts settled a claim under the state version of the False Claims Act for false claims made by Shell Oil in the cleanup of contaminated gas stations. Shell sought and received payments from the Underground Storage Tank Petroleum Product Cleanup Fund even though insurance reimbursed Shell for the cost of the cleanup. They paid a total of $4 million to the state and cleanup fund in order to settle the case.
Young Law Group represents whistleblowers reporting fraud through the False Claims Act. If you would like a free, confidential consultation with an attorney at McEldrew Young Purtell Merritt regarding reporting fraud, please call 1-800-590-4116 or complete our contact form.