This page is about the AFFF lawsuits and where we are in September 2023. Victims have been waiting a long time, hoping for firefighting foam settlement. Is there a settlement on the horizon? If compensation payouts are offered, what could they be?
As of September 2023, all the AFFF water contamination claims filed by local water authorities and municipalities have been resolved in a global settlement agreement. 3M, DuPont, and the other defendants will reportedly pay $10.3 billion to resolve these claims as part of the settlement deal. With these water contamination cases resolved, the focus of the AFFF class action lawsuit will now shift to individual claims brought by firefighters and military personnel.
In this post, we will look at how the firefighting foam litigation has developed, discuss the latest AFFF MDL news – specifically, the recent settlement rumors – and what to expect in 2023 from this ongoing mass tort. Our lawyers also explain the defendants in the litigation and provide a summary of a recent AFFF lawsuit.
AFFF Firefighting Foam Linked to Cancer
Aqueous film-forming foam (AFFF) or firefighting foam is used to extinguish certain types of fires. AFFF contains high levels of poly-fluoroalkyl chemicals (“PFAS”), which are commonly known as “forever chemicals.” Recent scientific research has shown that PFAS are very toxic to the human body, and chronic exposure to the PFAS in AFFF firefighting foam has been linked to several different types of cancer.
The new research showing AFFF can cause cancer has led to a wave of firefighting foam product liability lawsuits. These lawsuits have been filed by former firefighters, military personnel, and others diagnosed with cancer after years of regular exposure to AFFF.
AFFF firefighting foam has been used for decades to prevent dangerous fires, particularly those fueled by petroleum. AFFF is used regularly in live action and training exercises by professional firefighters, military personnel, and other occupations. Victims with this occupational exposure to AFFF include firefighters and military personnel. The military used this foam more than people think. The military used AFFF regularly to put out gasoline-based fires, and military personnel was frequently exposed to it during training exercises.
Many different companies have manufactured and sold AFFF over the years. Two of the biggest firefighting foam manufacturers in the U.S. are 3M and DuPont. All AFFF products contain PFAS, a group of chemicals containing fluorine and carbon and often referred to as “forever chemicals” because they do not biodegrade in the environment.
Scientists have long known that PFAS were harmful to the environment because they never go away and can contaminate groundwater supplies. More recently, however, evidence shows that PFAS may be carcinogenic. In 2016, a series of scientific studies found that chronic exposure to PFAS in firefighting foam can significantly increase the risk of certain types of cancer.
The Science Behind AFFF Lawsuits
The science behind AFFF lawsuits involves the study of the properties and behavior of PFAS chemicals in the environment and their potential health effects on human and wildlife populations. PFAS chemicals are highly persistent and can remain in the environment for many years, and they are known to contaminate water sources, wildlife, and food supplies.
Studies by the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) have concluded that individuals regularly exposed to PFAS chemicals have an increased risk of developing kidney, prostate, and testicular cancer. The American Cancer Society (ACS) has since identified PFAS as a human carcinogen in firefighting foam. Further research identified additional types of cancer that appear to be linked to AFFF exposure, including thyroid cancer, colon cancer, bladder cancer, and lymphoma.
In AFFF lawsuits, plaintiffs typically allege that the manufacturers of AFFF foams failed to warn about the potential health risks associated with PFAS exposure and failed to take adequate steps to prevent environmental contamination.
How does this happen? You do not need to explain how it happens to pass the Daubert standard required to get an AFFF lawsuit to trial. The exact mechanisms by which firefighting foam increases your cancer risk are still being studied, but several potential pathways have been suggested:
- Genotoxicity: Some studies have suggested that PFAS chemicals can cause DNA damage, leading to mutations that increase cancer risk.
- Hormonal disruption: PFAS chemicals have been shown to interfere with the endocrine system, altering the levels of hormones in the body. This hormonal disruption has been linked to an increased risk of certain cancers, such as breast and prostate cancer.
- Immune system suppression: PFAS chemicals have been shown to suppress the immune system, potentially increasing cancer risk by reducing the body’s ability to fight off abnormal cells.
- Increased oxidative stress: Some studies have suggested that PFAS exposure can increase oxidative stress in the body, leading to cellular damage and an increased risk of cancer.
However it happens, this evidence showed that individuals with long-term occupational exposure to AFFF firefighting foam were at increased risk of developing cancer.
The Defendants Knew AFFF Could Cause Cancer and Other Health Risks
Companies like 3M and DuPont should have known for many years, if not decades, that PFOA, PFOS, and other PFAS compounds are highly mobile, persistent, bioaccumulative, biomagnifying, volatile, and, most importantly, toxic. Actually, that is being generous – they were aware.
Despite this knowledge, the defendants did not come clean about the risks of PFOS, PFOA, and other PFAS from the public and regulatory bodies. 3M conducted extensive toxicity studies on PFAS, including PFOS and PFOA, as early as the 1950s – the 1050s! – and concluded that these chemicals were harmful.
Subsequent toxicity studies by 3M scientists in the late 1970s confirmed that these chemicals were even more hazardous than initially thought. In 1978, 3M conducted studies on monkeys and rats, subjecting them to varying doses of PFOS and PFOA. The studies indicated that PFOA and PFOS had adverse effects on the liver and gastrointestinal tracts of the tested species.
In 1975, 3M was informed by external researchers that PFOS could be detected in human blood serum, indicating it had spread beyond its immediate application site and was bioaccumulating. Research conducted by 3M around its manufacturing plants revealed that its fluorochemicals are readily bioaccumulated in specific systems of living organisms.
By 1979, 3M knew fluorochemicals could pose a cancer risk. Despite this, 3M never published its toxicity studies and actively worked to suppress research on the harmful effects of PFAS, including PFOA and PFOS.
Indeed, AFFF lawsuits allege that 3M tried to influence independent academic research to prevent the publication of unfavorable academic literature concerning PFAS, to shield 3M from AFFF lawsuits, and to prevent the very class action lawsuit we have now.
We could spell out DuPont’s history, but you get the idea. It reads very similarly to 3M. These companies turned a blind eye to the risk because they were making money hand over fist.
AFFF Firefighting Foam Class Action Lawsuit
Publication of the new scientific evidence linking PFAS in firefighting foam to cancer prompted a growing wave of firefighting foam cancer lawsuits. AFFF cancer lawsuits began nationwide against 3M, DuPont, and other companies that manufactured and sold firefighting foam products.
The AFFF lawsuits allege that manufacturers like 3M were aware of the link between PFAS and cancer as early as the 1990s and did not know about it. The first wave of AFFF lawsuits began getting filed in 2017, and by 2018, enough firefighting foam cases were pending in federal courts across the country to prompt the JPML to consolidate them into a new class action MDL.
The firefighting foam class action lawsuit was created in December 2018 and assigned to Judge Richard Gergel in the U.S. District Court for South Carolina. As of February 17, 2023, 3,704 active cases were pending in the AFFF class action MDL. Some of these cases involve claims by local governments that PFAS in firefighting foam contaminated the water supply. The rest are traditional product liability cases alleging that exposure to AFFF caused cancer.
Throughout 2022, an average of 175 new cases were added to the AFFF firefighting foam MDL every month. This steady rate of new firefighting foam lawsuits caused the size of the class action MDL to more than double last year. We don’t know how many of these new municipal water contamination cases are versus personal injury claims.
First Bellwether Trial Was Set for June 2023… and Settled
The first bellwether test trial in the AFFF class action MDL was scheduled to start on June 5, 2023, in the City of Stuart v. 3M Co. et al. case. The City of Stuart case involved claims that AFFF contaminated the municipal water system in Stuart, Florida.
However, this bellwether trial never happened because, in June 2023, the defendants agreed to resolve all water contamination cases (including the City of Stuart case) in a global settlement deal. According to reports, the settlement deal involves the payment of $10.3 billion over the next 13 years, which the plaintiffs will use to address PFAS contamination in their water systems.
Can We Expect a Settlement in the AFFF Litigation in 2023?
Our lawyers firmly believe the AFFF firefighting foam class action lawsuit will have some settlement payouts for individual victims in 2023. Is this a guarantee? Hardly. We have just four months left. But this trial’s pressure triggered a global settlement in the municipality claims of at least some of these defendants. After that settlement, rumors have swirled among AFFF lawyers. The talk is that the defense lawyers are indicating the prominent defendants want to put these cases behind them sooner rather than later.
What Will the Settlement Payout Be in AFFF Cases?
If we get a global settlement deal done in the AFFF firefighting foam cases this year (as we are predicting), our lawyers estimate that the average settlement payouts will be around $300,000 to $450,000. The settlement will likely create a tiered system in which individual claims are ranked into tiers based on the strength of the plaintiff’s case.
Cases ranked in the highest tier will get more significant settlement payout offers than those in lower tiers. Where an individual case is ranked will depend primarily on three factors: (1) the type of cancer, (2) the extent of the plaintiff’s AFFF exposure, and (3) the age of the plaintiff.
The type of cancer the plaintiff alleges was caused by exposure to AFFF will be significant because the causation evidence is much more substantial for certain types of cancer. The cancer types with the strongest link to AFFF are thyroid, testicular, kidney, and bladder cancer. Cases involving these cancer types and significant exposure history will probably be in the top tier.
The plaintiff’s personal exposure history refers to how much they were exposed to AFFF firefighting foam. A plaintiff who used AFFF 2 or 3 times a year for just five years will have a weaker case than one who used AFFF 10-20 times yearly for three decades.
What Companies Are Involved in the Firefighting Foam Settlement?
One thing that is somewhat unique about the AFFF firefighting foam class action is that it involves a very large and diverse group of prominent corporate defendants.
AFFF was never really a patent-protected product, only made by a single company. Instead, many companies in the chemical industry manufactured and sold their own versions of AFFF firefighting foam containing the same harmful chemicals. Now, all these companies are involved in the AFFF litigation as defendants.
Although many companies made and sold firefighting foam over the years, two big companies manufactured more AFFF than anyone else: 3M & Co. and DuPont. As a result, 3M and DuPont are the primary defendants in the litigation, and they will be responsible for most of the liability in any eventual settlement deal. Below is a list of all the various companies that made AFFF and will be involved in any global settlement deal:
|BASF Corp.||The Chemours Company|
|Arkema Inc.||AGC Chemicals Americas|
|Chubb National Foam, Inc||Clariant Corp.|
|UTC Fire & Security Americas||Carrier Global Corp.|
Is It Too Late to File a Firefighting Foam Lawsuit?
It is not too late to file your AFFF firefighting foam lawsuit and participate in any global settlement program that might get finalized this year. Hundreds of new firefighting foam cancer lawsuits are still getting filed and added to the AFFF class action MDL each month. In fact, over the last 30-day period, 317 new AFFF cases were added to the MDL, one of the highest monthly totals since the start of the litigation.
Example of a Recent Firefighting Foam Cancer Lawsuit
A recent firefighting foam lawsuit, Huntley v. 3M, was brought in the MDL class action. A plaintiff is a 57-year-old man from Amarillo, Texas, who is suing the AFFF defendant after being diagnosed with prostate cancer as a result of his exposure to the defendants’ fluorochemical products during his service as a firefighter with the United States Marine Corps (from 1983 to 1985) and United States Navy (from 2001-2006). His AFFF lawsuit seeks damages for the personal injuries, pain, suffering, and emotional distress caused by the defendants’ fluorochemical products.
The lawsuit alleges that the defendants were responsible for designing, manufacturing, marketing, distributing, and/or selling AFFF products that contained PFOA and/or PFOS chemicals and their precursor chemicals to the Marine Corps and Navy. He alleges the descriptive labels and material safety data sheets for Defendants’ AFFF products, which were used by firefighters in the Marine Corps and Navy, failed to reasonably or adequately disclose the risks posed to human health. His suit further claims the defendant knew since the 1980s that PFOA and PFOS are toxic and can be absorbed into the body through the lungs and gastrointestinal tract, potentially causing severe damage to vital organs and the central nervous system.
Going through these lawsuits, you will see that, like Mr. Huntley, many of these claims involve prostate cancer.
Contact Us About a Firefighting Foam Lawsuit
Our AFFF lawyers are currently accepting new firefighting foam cases from clients who meet the following criteria:
- Frequent exposure to AFFF (firefighting foam) for at least one year; and
- Diagnosis of one of the following types of cancer: pancreatic, testicular, prostate, kidney, bladder, or lymphoma.