PFAS Lawsuit Update (2024)

Tens of thousands of PFAS lawsuits have been filed against major manufacturers, alleging these so-called forever chemicals caused severe, permanent injuries.

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PFAS Lawsuit Update (2024)

Tens of thousands of product liability lawsuits have been filed against major manufacturers of PFAS chemical products, including 3M & Co. and DuPont (the maker of Teflon). Individuals, states and counties across the U.S. have brought PFAS lawsuits for chemical exposure injuries. They allege the companies knew of the dangers of PFAS but continued to use the substances in their products and supply them to other companies.

What Are PFAS?

PFAS is an umbrella term for many different per- and poly-fluoroalkyl substances. These man-made chemicals are highly resistant to heat and effectively repel water and oil. PFAS are known as “forever chemicals” because they don't break down easily and can remain in the soil and water for thousands of years. According to the CDC, nearly every American has measurable levels of PFAS in their blood.

American manufacturers have used PFAS since the 1940s in many different types of products. Things that commonly contained PFAS include:

  • Non-stick pans and cookware
  • Food packaging
  • Carpets, rugs and other home textiles
  • Medical equipment
  • Personal care products
  • Umbrellas and water-repellent clothing
  • Firefighting foams

Some manufacturers used "GenX" chemicals like HFPO-DA (Hexafluoropropylene Oxide Dimer Acid) to replace PFOA in non-stick cookware. Unfortunately, these chemicals share some of the same harmful properties.

What Harm Does Exposure to PFAS Cause?

Since PFAS do not break down easily in the environment, they can enter water sources easily. Industrial waste, runoff from landfills and firefighting foam residue are common sources of water contamination.

Chronic exposure to certain PFAS compounds, directly or via contaminated water, has been linked to many health risks. These include:

  • Thyroid and other hormone disruption
  • Increased cholesterol levels
  • Reduced immune response and vaccination efficacy
  • Fetal and child development issues
  • Increased risk of preeclampsia in pregnant women
  • Changes in liver enzymes
  • Kidney and testicular cancer
  • Reproductive issues

Some PFAS build up in the body and take years to cause symptoms. Victims of harm may not develop PFAS-linked illnesses or diseases, such as cancer, until decades after exposure.

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What Military Bases Are in the PFAS Lawsuits?

For decades, firefighting foam containing PFAS was used on nearly all U.S. domestic military bases because it is exceptionally effective at extinguishing jet fuel fires. Many servicemembers on these installations were exposed to high levels of these chemicals while participating in firefighting exercises.

Runoff from the foam and other PFAS waste materials leached into the ground on numerous military installations across the country. Thousands of military members, families who lived on post, soldiers and civilians working at the installation, and nearby residents consumed contaminated water from underground wells located on or near these bases.

The Department of Defense (DoD) is investigating the extent of PFAS contamination on its bases and in the surrounding communities. It is taking steps to clean up and mitigate the effects of these forever chemicals, including allocating nearly $1.2 billion for cleanup at 699 military installations and National Guard facilities.

PFAS Class Action Lawsuits and MDL

Some of these claims are filed as class action lawsuits. In this type of case, a single individual or a small group serves as plaintiffs representing a much larger group of people with similar damages. A judgment or settlement in a class action applies to everyone in the "class" of people affected, even if they don't participate in (or are even aware) of the case.

Federal courts use a system called "multidistrict litigation" (MDL) to streamline the process of resolving many similar cases. A single judge oversees common questions of fact (such as whether certain evidence or testimony is admissible), procedural issues (such as the deadline to complete all expert depositions) and the process of discovery (gathering documentary evidence and testimony). MDL reduces duplicative hearings and expedites trial preparation.

One or two cases in MDL proceedings are designated as "bellwether" cases and scheduled first for trial. If they are tried to verdict, their outcome often predicts the general value and likelihood of success for the remaining cases. Each case goes to trial individually if the parties don't settle.

Status of the Current PFAS Litigation

Over 500 PFAS-related claims are part of MDL No. 2873, based in the U.S. District Court of South Carolina. In May 2024, the judge overseeing that group of cases entered a scheduling order setting discovery deadlines in the bellwether cases. If the parties comply with the order as written and do not seek extensions, the first trials may be scheduled for late 2025.

Defendants such as BASF, Tyco, Dupont and 3M have already resolved many PFAS cases for billions in combined settlement dollars. As the cases progress and more evidence emerges, more settlements are expected.

The U.S. Department of Justice has asked the South Carolina MDL court to dismiss the claims against all government and military defendants because the Federal Tort Claims Act provides immunity from tort liability for the discretionary acts of government employees.

Who Can File a PFAS Cancer Lawsuit

The statutes of limitation to file a lawsuit for injuries related to PFAS exposure vary from state to state. While some begin to run when an individual was exposed, others allow a period after they knew or should have known their disease or condition was caused by PFAS exposure. Statutes of limitations also govern how long representatives of individuals who die of PFAS-related conditions like cancer have to file wrongful death lawsuits.

Although there are no presumptive benefits for members of the military exposed to PFAS, injured veterans can file claims with the Veterans' Administration (VA). Numerous federal laws have been proposed to compensate military firefighters exposed to PFAS and other veterans and their families with PFAS-related conditions.

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Jamie Pfeiffer, J.D.

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She writes accessible, engaging content to demystify everyday legal issues for all readers and is passionate about food, wine, and travel.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • Every PFAS claim and personal injury settlement is different. Patients who can establish PFAS exposure to a particular product have a good chance of recovering compensation for their medical expenses and other economic damages. Additional compensation for pain, suffering and other non-economic damages generally depends on how severe and permanent a person’s injuries are.

  • In April 2024, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) implemented new regulations establishing limits for PFAS in drinking water as part of an overall campaign to reduce PFAS. All public water systems must monitor for these substances and take remedial action if necessary. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the Department of Agriculture (USDA) have increased monitoring and testing for PFAS in food and packaging.

    Some states have passed laws banning PFAS in consumer products and firefighting foam, including Maine and Washington.

  • If you think you may have been exposed to PFAS, you can ask your care provider for a blood test. Although a test can’t show whether you've been exposed in the past, it can determine whether you have a high level of PFAS in your body. If so, your doctor may order additional testing to ensure your thyroid levels are normal and monitor for testicular or kidney cancer.

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