Trials & Litigation

3M faces trial over 'forever chemicals' in firefighting foam in 'bet-the-company' litigation

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3M faces its first trial out of about 4,000 lawsuits claiming that its cancer-linked “forever chemicals” known as PFAs have leached into groundwater.

The federal suit going to trial June 5 in Charleston, South Carolina, said 3M, a multinational conglomerate corporation, made per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances used in firefighting foam that contaminated the water supply in Stuart, Florida, Bloomberg Law reports.

The city is seeking $105 million for a cleanup and up to $500 million in punitive damages in the suit. It claims that foam made with PFAs is a defectively designed product, and the company failed to warn about the risks.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency cited studies showing that exposure to certain PFAs may increase the risk of some cancers, cause developmental delays in children and decrease fertility.

3M contends that PFAs are safe, and they pose no significant health threat.

Scott Summy of Baron & Budd, co-counsel for the plaintiffs in the multidistrict litigation that includes the Stuart, Florida, case, told Law360 in January that next in line are trials in suits by Sioux Falls, South Dakota, and Ayer, Massachusetts.

The litigation “is large, it is sprawling, it continues to grow, and honestly it is basically the largest environmental issue going on in the country on a cumulative basis,” Summy said.

Other defendants in PFAs litigation include DuPont de Nemours Inc., its spinoff the Chemours Co., and Chemguard Inc.

Bloomberg Law cited an estimate that 3M could be liable for up to $142.7 billion in cleanup costs nationwide related to PFAs.

Chuck Tatelbaum, a bankruptcy lawyer, told Bloomberg Law that bankruptcy “may be the only real alternative to deal with this kind of bet-the-company threat.”

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