A federal judge last week granted a motion to postpone a trial in which the city of Stuart, Florida, is seeking damages from 3M Company over the use of firefighting foam containing per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS). These so-called “forever chemicals” are ubiquitous and they don’t break down over time, which can pose a serious risk to human health and the environment. In the order granting the continuance in the Stuart, Florida, case, U.S. District Judge Richard Gergel, the federal judge overseeing the aqueous film-forming foam multidistrict litigation (MDL) in Charleston, South Carolina, wrote that both sides asked to delay the start of the trial, which suggests that they may be nearing a settlement agreement. If you or someone you love was diagnosed with cancer after being exposed to PFAS in firefighter foam, contact Consumer Safety Watch as soon as possible. You may benefit from a potential PFAS settlement agreement and an experienced product liability attorney can help.
A growing number of lawsuits have been filed by people exposed to PFAS from aqueous film-forming foam (AFFF), more commonly known as firefighter foam, and contaminated drinking water supplies nationwide. The lawsuits stem from well-founded concerns about the adverse health effects of exposure to PFAS, a class of man-made chemical compounds that have been used in consumer and industrial products since the 1950s. The chemicals have been linked to a host of serious and potentially life-threatening health problems, including liver and immune system damage and several different types of cancer.
The case brought by the city of Stuart, Florida, is a bellwether case meant to help the parties anticipate the results of similar cases brought in the future. According to Gergel’s order granting the continuance in the Stuart, Florida, case, attorneys for both sides “have been in serious settlement discussions to reach a global resolution of the claims of the water district plaintiffs pending against 3M.” As Gergel noted, “The parties informed the court (Sunday) evening that they have reached a stage in those discussions where they believe a final binding agreement is achievable in the near future and that they believe their time could be more effectively spent finalizing the agreement and obtaining the necessary approvals rather than commencing the trial of this case.” The fact that both sides agreed to the continuance signals progress towards a potential settlement agreement, which would affect thousands of similar PFAS pollution cases brought against 3M.
3M no longer makes firefighter foam, and the company announced in December 2022 that it would halt the manufacture of PFAS, which can also be found in cleaning products, nonstick cookware, water-resistant fabrics, and even some personal care products. The problem with these chemicals is that they don’t degrade naturally in the environment and they have been detected in drinking water supplies across the country. The U.S. government currently faces thousands of claims over toxic exposure to PFAS in the drinking water at Camp Lejeune, a U.S. military training facility where the water supply was known to be polluted with PFAS from at least 1953 through 1987. Since 2018, as many as 300 communities have pursued similar claims against the companies that made firefighting foam products or the PFAS used in firefighting foam.
Given common questions of fact and law presented throughout the litigation, all federal AFFF lawsuits have been centralized before Judge Richard Gergel in the U.S. District Court for the District of South Carolina, where more than 4,000 claims alleging damages from PFAS are pending. Earlier this month, DuPont de Nemours Inc., The Chemours Co., and Corteva Inc. announced a $1.18 billion deal to resolve complaints involving potentially harmful PFAS chemicals in U.S. drinking water systems. The agreement does not settle claims against 3M, the primary manufacturer of PFAS-containing firefighter foam.
If you or someone you know was exposed to “forever chemicals” from using a firefighting foam product or drinking water contaminated with PFAS, do not hesitate to speak to a knowledgeable PFAS injury attorney about your legal options. Depending on your situation, you may have grounds to file a lawsuit against the company responsible for manufacturing the firefighter foam or PFAS to which you were exposed.