3M, a multibillion-dollar manufacturing company, has just announced that it will cease the production of toxic chemicals known as PFAS by 2025. This move comes after consumer and environmental advocates have raised concerns about the presence of harmful chemicals in a variety of consumer products and tainted water supplies. Manufacturers like 3M are currently facing thousands of product liability lawsuits from individual plaintiffs and communities who claim that these companies failed to warn them of the risks of exposure to PFAS.
Plaintiffs claim that they developed cancer and other serious or life-threatening health conditions and believe that companies like 3M should compensate them for their damages like medical bills, lost wages, and emotional distress. If you have been exposed to high levels of PFAS and developed cancer or other serious health issues, you should speak to a product liability attorney to learn more about your options for pursuing compensation.
What Are Forever Chemicals?
Forever chemicals, the nickname given to per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS), are man-made compounds that are toxic to humans. While manufacturers use them to make their products resistant to oil, grease, and water, their use in everyday products has become increasingly controversial. PFAS have been found in everything from cookware and clothing to tampons and firefighting foam.
The human body does not have the capacity to fully break down these chemicals and expel them from the body, meaning that they continue to accumulate. When a person is repeatedly exposed to significant levels of PFAS, the buildup of toxins in their system can lead to a number of serious health conditions, including those that jeopardize a fetus.
Health Conditions Linked to PFAS Exposure:
- Liver damage
- Thyroid disease
- Increased cholesterol levels
- Increased risk of high blood pressure in pregnant women
- Increased risk of pre-eclampsia in pregnant women
- Kidney cancer
- Testicular cancer
- Decreased vaccine response in children
How Exposure to Forever Chemicals Occurs
While most of the U.S. populace has detectable levels of PFAS in their systems, certain careers are associated with higher levels of exposure. This includes industries that use Aqueous Film-Forming Foam (AFFF) to fight fires, including the military, airports, and fire departments. Firefighters may absorb the harmful chemicals through inhalation as they complete training exercises or put out fires.
Additionally, the communities surrounding these sites are at an increased risk for exposure because the chemicals have been known to contaminate groundwater, such as in the case of the Red Hill Spill at the Kalaeloa airport. Residents may unknowingly be drinking and bathing in water that contains high levels of per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances.
Damages in a PFAS Contamination Lawsuit
PFAS have been known to produce negative health effects including cancer, chronic conditions, and developmental issues. For many families, these kinds of diagnoses mean an unexpected financial burden and numerous intangible sacrifices. In a product liability lawsuit, plaintiffs can claim both economic and non-economic damages. Economic damages are monetary losses that are connected to the plaintiff’s injuries. Non-economic damages are quantified subjectively and reimburse plaintiffs for emotional losses.
Examples of Damages in a 3M PFAS Forever Chemicals Lawsuit:
- Medical expenses
- Lab tests
- Radiation therapy
- Hospital stays
- Job-related losses
- Lost wages
- Reduced earning potential
- Missed promotions
- Job retraining
- Pain and suffering
- Loss of quality of life
- Wrongful death
- Loss of consortium
- Loss of parental guidance
- Loss of services and support
- Funeral and burial expenses
Consider the case of a firefighter who develops kidney cancer and loses one of their kidneys in the process. They no longer have the physical stamina to keep up with the demands of their job, which was how they helped provide for their family. After losing a fulfilling career and source of income, the firefight struggles with depression and cannot afford to pay their medical bills or monthly expenses.
Due to the negligence of companies like 3M, individuals and communities across the country are facing circumstances like these, with extensive economic and non-economic damages. A product liability attorney will be able to calculate the value of your damages and negotiate for maximum compensation.
Status of the 3M Product Liability Lawsuits
Currently, the product liability lawsuits against 3M concerning AFFF firefighting foam have been consolidated into a multidistrict litigation with over 500 plaintiffs. The cases will be overseen by Honorable Richard M. Gergel of the U.S. District Court of South Carolina. Multidistrict litigations provide plaintiffs with similar complaints to pool their resources and make a claim as a group against a defendant.
This approach is often taken to preserve court resources in cases where there are a large number of plaintiffs making similar allegations. Unlikely in a class action lawsuit, plaintiffs are still able to recover compensation that reflects their specific damages as opposed to dividing the final settlement evenly amongst themselves.
Additional AFFF firefighting foam claims will likely be filed in the coming years, as water contamination is difficult to clean up or contain, and plaintiffs may not immediately realize their health issues are connected to PFAS exposure. Bellwether trials are anticipated for 2023, which will give plaintiffs and their product liability lawyers a better idea of what settlements may look like.
Liability in a 3M Forever Chemicals Lawsuit
Despite the fact that 3M has agreed to phase out PFAS by 2025, they will not be automatically exempt from facing current or future product liability lawsuits. They are still responsible for the PFAS that have already contaminated water supplies as well as those that continue to do so. In order for plaintiffs to recover compensation for their damages in a product liability lawsuit, they must demonstrate the 3M owed them a duty of care.
3M failed to provide consumers with warning labels altering them to the dangers of PFAS, which plaintiffs say is a breach of duty. If plaintiffs are successful in establishing these two points, they must then connect their injuries to 3M’s failure to issue warnings about their products. Finally, plaintiffs must make a convincing argument that their damages are a result of their PFAS injuries and provide evidence to establish their monetary value.
Your best chance of recovering the compensation you need is to hire a personal injury lawyer who has a successful track record of negotiating for maximum compensation. A product liability lawyer can protect your rights, investigate to obtain evidence, and present a compelling case for damages.