The U.S. Appeals Court grants a favorable ruling to chemical manufacturers in the PFAS lawsuit
28 Nov 2023
The U.S. 6th Circuit Court of Appeals, based in Cincinnati, Ohio, delivered a favorable ruling on Monday, November 27, 2023, for 3M, E.I. du Pont de Nemours and Co., a subsidiary of Corteva Inc., and other manufacturers facing allegations related to hazardous per- and poly-fluoroalkyl substances (PFAS), commonly known as "forever chemicals."
The decision overturned a lower court's approval of a massive class-action lawsuit, which sought to represent approximately 11.8 million Ohio residents in their claims against the chemical companies.
The appeals court contended that the lead plaintiff, Kevin Hardwick, had filed an excessively broad complaint, failing to establish a direct link between the PFAS found in his body and the actions of the defendants, including 3M, DuPont, and others. The court emphasized that Hardwick's complaint often implicated the chemical manufacturers collectively rather than individually targeting specific actions of a particular company.
Circuit Judge Raymond Kethledge observed that there was seldom such an ambitious case filed on such a slight basis. He underscored the extensive involvement of numerous companies in PFAS manufacturing, noting that only ten were listed as defendants in the case.
The court instructed the lower court to dismiss Hardwick's lawsuit, which aimed to compel the companies to fund studies investigating the health impacts of PFAS. These chemicals are commonly used in various consumer products, such as non-stick pans and clothing, and have been associated with serious health conditions, including cancer.
In addition to seeking compensation for health studies, the lawsuit also sought to establish a fund for monitoring Ohio residents for potential health impacts resulting from PFAS exposure.
A spokesperson for 3M expressed satisfaction with the court's decision. However, Robert Bilott, an attorney representing Hardwick, stated that the decision contradicts the known history of PFAS manufacturing in the United States, and they are currently evaluating whether to appeal the ruling.
PFAS, often referred to as "forever chemicals" due to their resistance to breaking down in nature and the human body, have been the subject of thousands of lawsuits in recent years. In June 2023, 3M agreed to a $10.3 billion settlement to resolve claims of water pollution with PFAS. Similarly, Chemours Co., DuPont de Nemours Inc., and Corteva reached a $1.19 billion settlement with U.S. water providers over alleged PFAS contamination.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has identified PFAS as an "urgent public health and environmental issue" and has taken regulatory steps, particularly in monitoring PFAS levels in drinking water.