Water contamination lawsuits against firefighter foam makers to be selected for first Bellwether trial

In light of the common factual and legal issues presented in the claims, the U.S. Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation decided to centralize and consolidate the claims before U.S. District Judge Richard M. Gergel in the District of South Carolina, for coordinated discovery and preliminary procedures over the past. a few years.

Early in the litigation, Judge Gergel established an “indicator” program, which began with a cluster of water contamination cases that were the subject of case-specific discovery in preparation for a series of first trial dates expected to begin in mid-2023.

Last month, Judge Gergel issued a scheduling order (PDF) that calls on the parties to meet and confer on their ranked preferences for which case should be the first to go to a jury.

If the parties can agree, they will submit those preferences by September 9, 2022. If they cannot agree, the parties will file a list of their own ranked preferences for the first lighthouse trial.

The Court will then designate the first headline case for trial and issue a new scheduling order for the remaining deadlines and the final trial date.

PFAS Health Concerns Linked to Fire Fighting Foam

PFAS were first introduced to the manufacturing industry in the 1940s, due to their ability to resist heat, grease, stains and water. However, since then the chemicals have been linked to a myriad of adverse health effects including liver damage, thyroid disease, decreased fertility, high cholesterol, obesity, hormone suppression and cancer.

PFAS chemicals are predicted to take thousands of years to degrade, and previous studies have shown their ability to enter and remain in the environment and the human body through air, dust, food, soil and water. Previous studies from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have shown that PFAS chemicals are deposited primarily in the blood, kidneys and liver, and could likely be detected in the blood of 98% of the US population.

Chemicals are used to make a number of products, including some food packaging materials, pizza boxes, popcorn bags, fabrics, non-stick pans and other products. However, it is perhaps best known for its use in firefighting foams used by military and civilian firefighters.

Although these cases focus specifically on lawsuits brought by water suppliers for contamination of water sources, many firefighter foam lawsuits have been brought by individuals, often former firefighters, who say they have developed cancer due to years of exposure.

The same manufacturers are also facing a growing number of PFAS water contamination lawsuits brought by people with pancreatic cancer, liver cancer, bladder cancer, testicular cancer, kidney cancer or ulcerative colitis, after years of drinking tap water that has been found to contain high levels. foam chemicals from firefighters, especially near military bases and other locations where PFAS have been released into the water system.

Lee J. Murillo