AFFF Lawsuits Continue to Mount as Health Risks Come to Light

Aqueous Film-Forming Foam (AFFF) has been used for decades in firefighting and military operations to extinguish fuel-based fires. However, AFFF contains toxic chemicals known as per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) that can persist in the environment for years and accumulate in the human body, potentially causing adverse health effects. As more information has emerged about the dangers of PFAS, the number of AFFF lawsuits has continued to grow, with an average monthly growth rate of almost 200 cases.

The lawsuits involve claims by individual firefighters who have developed cancer after being exposed to AFFF, as well as claims by cities and towns that have found their water supply contaminated by AFFF runoff from nearby military bases, airports, and fire stations. 

The increasing number of AFFF lawsuits is a cause for concern, as PFAS are associated with numerous health effects, including developmental problems, immune system dysfunction, and cancer. 

The AFFF MDL has the potential to hold responsible parties accountable for their role in exposing individuals and communities to harmful chemicals while also raising awareness of the health risks associated with PFAS.

Updates Regarding New Cases

317 new AFFF cases have been filed since January 2023, according to the most recent information on Litigation Information Center. It’s unclear how many of the newly filed cases represent personal injury lawsuits rather than accusations of contaminated municipal water. 

Individuals who have filed a personal injury AFFF lawsuit are mostly firefighters who were exposed to AFFF and have developed health issues, including cancer. Municipal water contamination cases, on the other hand, are brought by cities and towns that have found their water supply contaminated by AFFF runoff from nearby military bases, airports, and fire stations.

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City of Stuart v. 3M Co

The AFFF MDL judge will make significant decisions about Daubert arguments contesting the admissibility of scientific evidence in the first bellwether trial of City of Stuart v. 3M Co. scheduled for June. According to Law360.com, this trial is expected to be among the most important in the continuing AFFF case.

Whether scientific evidence will be permitted in AFFF health matters will be somewhat governed by the Daubert rulings on causation evidence in the City of Stuart. Daubert rulings are a common tactic used by defendants to limit the admissibility of expert testimony on causation and other issues. 

Statute of Limitations and Discovery Rule

Many victims who want to launch an AFFF case feel the statute of limitations deadline precludes them from doing so. Most states, however, have a discovery rule that extends the time restriction for initiating a personal injury claim until the plaintiff is aware of the harm and its relationship to the defendant’s carelessness.

This means that victims who have been diagnosed with health issues in the last few years may still have time to file a claim, even if the exposure to AFFF occurred several years ago. There are several exceptions to the statute of limitations and the discovery rule, but many victims who want to bring an AFFF case in 2023 may still have a claim.

Considering the complexity and potential exceptions of the statute of limitations and discovery rule, consulting an attorney with experience in handling AFFF cases can help individuals navigate the legal process and ensure that they take timely action to protect their rights.

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Defendants Seeking Summary Judgment

Recently, three defendants—Tyco, BASF, and Chemguard Inc.—filed petitions for summary judgment to remove themselves from the first pivotal AFFF trial. They contend that there is inadequate proof that the water pollution in Stuart’s municipal water system was caused by their AFFF products.

None of the expert witnesses for the plaintiff particularly mentioned any of the defendants’ goods. Summary judgment is a legal procedure used by defendants to ask a court to rule in their favor without a trial. If the judge grants the motions, these defendants will be dismissed from the case.

Conclusion

The growing number of AFFF lawsuits is a clear indication of the harm caused by exposure to PFAS, which can persist in the environment and accumulate in the human body, potentially leading to serious health issues. The AFFF MDL provides an opportunity to hold those responsible accountable and raise awareness of the health risks associated with these chemicals. 

As the legal proceedings progress, plaintiffs will need to be aware of the statute of limitations and discovery rule exceptions, while defendants may seek a summary judgment to dismiss themselves from the case. The upcoming City of Stuart v. 3M Co. trial is also of critical importance, as it will address scientific evidence and causation challenges that may have implications for AFFF health cases.

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