The weight of the AFFF firefighting foam lawsuits has taken its toll on the finances of the makers of fire extinguishing products, such as Kidde-Fenwal. The fire protection company has been driven to the brink of bankruptcy in anticipation of paying out a multitude of product liability claims. Plaintiffs allege that AFFF manufacturers should be held liable for their harmful Aqueous Film-Forming Foam, which has contaminated water supplies across the country.
Residents who have used the polluted water have been exposed to dangerous levels of PFAS, which are carcinogens. They are now seeking compensation for damages like medical bills, lost wages, and loss of quality of life after developing cancer and other health issues related to AFFF exposure. Product liability lawyers are compiling claims to establish that AFFF manufacturers are responsible for compensating firefighters, airport workers, military personnel, and residents of communities with contaminated water, such as in the Camp Lejeune lawsuits.
AFFF Maker Kidde-Fenwal Files for Bankruptcy
One of the defendants in the AFFF firefighting foam multidistrict litigation, Kidde-Fenwal, has announced that they have filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in Delaware. Kidde-Fenwal is a subsidiary of Carrier Global Corp, which specializes in HVAC and fire safety equipment. Carrier Global is currently distancing itself from Kidde-Fenwal, which it acquired in 2020, although the company has expressed support for Kidde-Fenwal’s goal of selling the company.
Kidde-Fenwal has been forced into bankruptcy because the value of its assets is inadequate to pay out settlements for the plaintiffs injured by its defective firefighting foam. Additionally, the cost of trial proceedings has been draining their resources. While the company does not make AFFF firefighting foam, they were still potentially liable because it sold AFFF through National Foam, a subsidiary of Kidde-Fenwal which has since been sold off.
Kidde-Fenwal has been taken out of the bellwether trial proceedings by Judge Richard M. Gergel, which will mean that they will no longer accumulate costs related to litigation, but they are not exempt from consequences. Plaintiffs who are seeking compensation from Kidde-Fenwal may still be able to recover compensation, but the process will be dealt with via bankruptcy court. The profits from the sale of Kidde-Fenwal are intended to be designated to compensate AFFF plaintiffs.
AFFF Firefighting Foam Contains Toxic Forever Chemicals
Per- and polyfluorinated substances, also known as forever chemicals, are quickly becoming one of the most notorious synthetic environmental contaminants. PFAS are typically found in products with heat and water-resistant properties, such as AFFF firefighting foam. Heavy or frequent exposure has been associated with a variety of serious health issues, including:
- Thyroid issues
- High cholesterol
- Birth defects and low birth weights
- Kidney cancer
- Liver problems
- Testicular cancer
- Decreased vaccine response in children
One of the biggest issues has been containing the AFFF runoff from polluting the water of the local community near military bases or airports. For example, a growing number of plaintiffs in the Pensacola area claim that they have developed cancer and other life-threatening health conditions as a result of being exposed to PFAS through AFFF runoff from the area’s numerous military bases.
There have been other instances of communities being unintentionally exposed to dangerous levels of PFAS through contaminated water supplies, such as the Red Hill spill at the Kalaeloa airport. Perhaps the most egregious example of PFAS contamination on a military base is the decades-long pollution of Camp Lejeune.
AFFF manufacturers are not only facing claims from communities who were harmed by environmental exposure, but also from firefighters, airport employees, and military service members, who typically sustain higher levels of exposure from regularly handling AFFF. These manufacturers are now embroiled in multidistrict litigation to determine the extent of their liability.
Manufacturers of AFFF Face Product Liability Lawsuits
Plaintiffs in the product liability lawsuits against companies like Kidde-Fenwal claim that AFFF manufacturers were aware that their products contained cancer-causing PFAS, and are therefore liable for their damages. Kidde-Fenwal is not the only company being sued for having forever chemicals in their products. Other manufacturers facing claims include:
- Tyco Fire Products
As public pressure to limit PFAS exposure grows, private companies and the military are making an effort to eliminate PFAS-contaminated products, such as AFFF firefighting foam. For example, the Air Force will phase out AFFF firefighting foam by 2024, moving to an alternative fire extinguisher while using water in the interim. Additionally, 3M is committed to removing PFAS from their products by 2025, although they remain potentially liable for the PFAS contamination in their products up to this point.
Other industries are also facing product liability claims for making products containing PFAS. For example, the following groups are potentially liable for the damages plaintiffs who used their products sustained:
- Tampon manufacturers, such as Playtex
- Chemical hair straightener makers, like L’oreal
- Pesticide manufacturers, like SC Johnson
Recovering Compensation for Damages in an AFFF Lawsuit
Researchers are still investigating all of the potential health issues that PFAS may cause or exacerbate in humans. Currently, the health conditions associated with high PFAS exposure have significant financial, physical, and emotional costs. Plaintiffs in the AFFF firefighting foam lawsuits may pursue compensation for monetary losses, or economic damages, as well as emotional losses, or non-economic damages.
Examples of Damages in an AFFF Lawsuit:
- Medical expenses
- Lab tests
- Radiation therapy
- Hospital stays
- Pain and suffering
- Loss of quality of life
- Job-related losses
- Lost wages
- Missed promotions
- Reduced earning capacity
- Wrongful death
- Loss of services and support
- Loss of consortium
- Loss of parental guidance and instruction
- Funeral and burial expenses
Anyone who has sustained significant occupational or environmental exposure to PFAS through AFFF firefighting foam or another source should seek evaluation from a medical professional if they develop any PFAS exposure-related health issues. If you have been harmed by PFAS exposure, you may also want to consider taking legal action against the negligent party or parties involved. A product liability lawyer can provide you with the resources and expertise you need to make an effective claim for compensation.