US appeals court rejects ‘broad’ lawsuit against PFAS makers

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The plaintiff told the court that his use of firefighting foams over his 40-year career led to PFAS contamination within his body, but was unable to tell the court who manufactured the foams. Photo Credit: Dushlik, stock.adobe.com

An Ohio appeals court has vacated a lower court’s approval of a massive class action lawsuit against several major manufacturers of per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances, better known as PFAS, suggesting claims of liability were too broad.‘

The dismissed lawsuit is among thousands that have been filed against 3M, DuPont and Corteva Inc., among others in recent years, over alleged PFAS contamination. In this instance, lead plaintiff and former firefighter, Kevin Hardwick, sought liability against 10 manufacturers over five PFAS compounds found in his bloodstream.

Appeals court Circuit Judge Raymond Kethledge ruled on the lawsuit in a written opinion that noted “seldom is so ambitious a case filed on so slight a basis.”  

Kethledge added that the chemicals are “ubiquitous” in modern life and that Hardwick “does not know what companies manufactured the particular chemicals in his bloodstream; nor does he know, or indeed have much idea, whether those chemicals might someday make him sick; nor, as a result of those chemicals, does he have any sickness or symptoms now.”

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Hardwick told the court that his use of firefighting foams over his 40-year career led to PFAS contamination within his body, but was unable to tell the court who manufactured the foams.

Had the court approved the lawsuit, it would have opened the door for nearly 12 million Ohio residents to hold the manufacturers liable for PFAS contamination.

In a statement, 3M’s corporate leaders said they were “pleased” with the appeal court’s dismissal of the suit.

In June, 3M agreed to a record $12.5-billion nationwide class settlement with public water systems that detect PFAS chemicals in their drinking water supplies. 

That same month, three other PFAS manufacturers, including Chemours Co., DuPont de Nemours Inc., and Corteva Inc., reached an agreement in principle to settle PFAS-related claims for $1.1 billion. The companies said the agreement resolved claims made against them by hundreds of water providers across the country, who say they are responsible to help pay for PFAS contamination and cleanup.

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