Litigation over ‘forever chemicals’ is growing: Is your company the next defendant?

Litigation surrounding the production and use of per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) is ticking upward in state and federal courts in the United States. PFAS, which are manmade chemicals resistant to breaking down — why they’re called ‘forever chemicals’ — have been the subject of studies claiming links between certain PFAS and health concerns. In this recent uptick of PFAS-related litigation, the breadth of plaintiffs at issue has grown, moving from owners of places where PFAS are manufactured, to owners of places, such as air bases, that merely use PFAS-containing materials.

Furthermore, injuries for which damages are sought have grown, branching out from an initial focus on the contamination of water supplies caused by the manufacture of PFAS to more recent cases that allege violations of consumer protection laws for failure to warn or mislabeling certain consumer goods that allegedly use PFAS in the product.

Finally, there is an expected new wave in PFAS litigation that includes personal injury claims from consumers using products that contain PFAS, fueled by the rapid development of science in toxicity assessments that highlight PFAS exposure, as well as an increasing number of lawsuits from local municipal entities, as evidenced by two recent lawsuits filed by the cities of Baltimore and Philadelphia.