PFAS Product Liability Cases – Are the Floodgates Now Open?
January 12, 2021
Read the full article by John Gardella (National Law Review)
For the past three years, we have put forth the prediction that the PFAS litigation would evolve by expanding beyond lawsuits against PFAS manufacturers for personal injuries to lawsuits against manufacturing companies that utilize PFAS as a component of their products. This “next wave” of PFAS product liability cases would significantly impact business interests at an incredible financial magnitude and puts at risk corporate finances at levels that could cause significant business interruption. A signal that this “next wave” of products liability litigation may be here came late last week with the announcement that a product manufacturer settled a group of pending PFAS lawsuits – some of the damages going to environmental cleanup, but some of the damages going towards settlement with individuals for personal injury. This is an extremely significant PFAS development that deserves closer attention.
What Are PFAS and Why Are They a Concern?
Per- and poly-fluoroalkyl substances (“PFAS”) are a class of over 7,000 manmade compounds. Chemists at 3M and Dupont developed the initial PFAS chemicals by accident in the 1930s when researching carbon-based chemical reactions. During one such experiment, an unusual coating remained in the testing chamber, which upon further testing was completely resistant to any methods designed to break apart the atoms within the chemical. The material also had the incredible ability to repel oil and water. Dupont later called this substance PFOA (perfluorooctanoic acid), the first PFAS ever invented. After World War II, Dupont commercialized PFOA into the revolutionary product that the company branded “Teflon.”
Only a short while later, 3M invented its own PFAS chemical – perfluorooctane sulfonate (PFOS), which they also commercialized and branded “Scotchgard.” Within a short period of time, various PFAS chemicals were used in hundreds of products – today, it numbers in the thousands.