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Judge says Du Pont withheld documents

A federal judge said Friday he will consider entering a judgment against Du Pont for all non-fraud issues because the company has failed repeatedly to produce documents in a lawsuit over a chemical farmers contend damaged their crops.

U.S. District Judge J. Robert Elliott said Du Pont willfully withheld documents from its plant in Belle, W.Va., showing that a chemical known as sulfonylurea contaminated the Du Pont fungicide, Benlate DF. Farmers have sued, claiming Benlate DF killed their crops.

"The court finds without question that the plaintiffs (have proved) that the defendants withheld documents that show that plants were contaminated with sufonylurea," Elliott said.

On Monday, Elliott doubled a fine against Du Pont, saying the company must pay $1-million for failing to turn over documents. The judge said he does not want to deal with the case again until its July 6 trial date.

The judge ordered the company to produce all documents plaintiffs are requesting within one week and to bear the expenses of any Du Pont employees the plaintiffs call as additional witnesses.