PFAS (Per-and Polyfluoroalkyl Substances)
Per-and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) are a group of thousands of man-made chemicals that do not break down and can accumulate over time, with exposure leading to serious adverse human health and environmental effects. Because of their unique and extreme durability and resistance to natural degradation, PFAS are often referred to as “forever chemicals.” PFAS are known for their stain-resistant, water-resistant, chemical-resistant, corrosion-resistant, and non-stick properties, and have been manufactured and incorporated into tens of thousands of consumer and industrial products and processes since the 1940’s. As a result, PFAS impacts can be found across the world and in the blood of more than 98% of human beings. Only in recent years have PFAS become the subject of regulation at the state, federal, and international level, and litigation costs associated with PFAS liability are now estimated to exceed tens of billions of dollars per year. Taft's attorneys deal with PFAS issues on a daily basis for a host of governmental, industrial, commercial, and other clients. Taft relies on a deep bench of skilled attorneys to handle PFAS-related issues across numerous practice groups and disciplines, including litigation, environmental/regulatory compliance, environmental permitting, environmental remediation, procurement and distribution contracts, transactions (e.g., mergers, acquisitions, divestitures), and real estate development.
Our attorneys have significant experience with PFAS chemical contamination and have represented clients injured or damaged by PFAS for more than two decades. Taft was lead counsel in the very first PFAS damage case filed in 1999 and has been actively working on such matters ever since, representing a diverse range of clients located all across the country and abroad, with respect to PFAS liability, including chemical and industrial manufacturers, water providers, airports, medical device manufacturers, Brownfield developers, individuals, oil companies, governmental entities, and others. Through such work, Taft has helped obtain more than $1 billion in benefits and compensation for our clients injured by PFAS contamination.
With Taft's extensive experience, including litigating PFAS matters in state and federal courts across the country, we have become a leader and adviser to clients dealing with PFAS contamination throughout the U.S. and internationally. We have extensive relationships with experienced PFAS consultants, remediation contractors, allocation experts, insurance companies/brokers, and other specialized professionals who have helped clients navigate the complex and evolving regulatory and liability implications of PFAS. Taft’s multi-decade experience in complex CERCLA and environmental remediation matters has helped us assist numerous clients in responding to federal, state, and local requests for sampling, assessing, and/or remediating PFAS impacts.
Taft partner Rob Bilott currently serves as national advisory counsel to the Plaintiffs’ Executive Committee (and co-chair of the Science Committee) in the aqueous film-forming foam (AFFF) multi-district litigation now pending in federal court in South Carolina where hundreds of AFFF cases have been consolidated.
Taft’s advice and counsel are sought nationally and internationally on the wide array of legal, regulatory, and scientific issues developing with respect to emerging PFAS contamination issues worldwide. Rob Bilott is a frequent speaker on PFAS history and related issues at law schools, universities, and colleges, and has provided testimony and presentations on PFAS issues before numerous local, state, federal, and international governmental and regulatory bodies, including various committees and proceedings before the U.S. Congress, the European Union, and the United Nations.
In 2017, Rob Bilott received the international “Right Livelihood Award” in Stockholm, Sweden, also known as the “Alternative Nobel Prize,” for his decades of groundbreaking work on PFAS issues. Rob’s PFAS work is also the focus of a feature-length documentary, “The Devil We Know,” and a Hollywood feature film, “Dark Waters,” which received the Environmental Media Association’s Feature Film Award in 2020. His work is also the subject of the best-selling book, “Exposure: Poisoned Water, Corporate Greed, and One Lawyer’s Twenty-Year Battle Against DuPont.”
Numerous industries are potentially impacted by PFAS, including:
- Chemical and industrial manufacturers.
- Medical device manufacturers.
- Regulated industries.
- Governmental entities.
- Oil and gas.
- Brownfield developers.
- Water providers.
Several of Taft’s representative PFAS litigation matters are described below.
Aqueous Film-Forming Foam Contamination
- Taft attorneys have represented and are representing a diverse array of clients, including various state and local governmental entities and other parties impacted by PFAS contamination specifically linked to the use of PFAS-based aqueous film-forming foams (AFFF), used in firefighting. Taft attorney Rob Bilott serves as national advisory counsel to and co-chair of the Science Committee for the Plaintiffs’ Executive Committee in multi-district litigation now pending in federal court in South Carolina where hundreds of AFFF cases have been consolidated.
West Virginia/Ohio PFOA Drinking Water Contamination
- Taft attorney Rob Bilott led litigation first filed in 1999 that resulted in the discovery and public disclosure of PFOA in human drinking water supplies. That discovery spurred national regulatory interest and investigation into PFAS and the filing in 2001 of the nation’s first class action litigation on behalf of clients harmed by PFAS contamination in West Virginia and Ohio. Rob was appointed by the court as one of the class counsel for the plaintiffs and helped negotiate and obtain a class settlement in 2004 that secured benefits for the class valued in excess of $300 million, including full payment of the costs associated with designing and installing new public and private water filtration systems (and associated life-time operation and maintenance expenses) and funding of independent scientific health studies on PFAS and payment of up to $235 million for related testing expenses.
- Taft also helped those injured by the PFAS contamination protect their interests in connection with various federal and state governmental enforcement actions and consent order activities related to the contamination of drinking water supplies with Perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) in West Virginia and Ohio, and assisted clients in associated regulatory and administrative proceedings.
- After an independent scientific panel created under the 2004 class settlement confirmed “probable links” between exposure to PFOA and six diseases, including two types of cancer, Rob Bilott was appointed co-lead counsel for the Plaintiff’s Steering Committee in the multi-district litigation consolidated in federal court in Ohio in 2013 (the “C8 MDL”) to handle the approximately 3500 claims of class members diagnosed with one of the diseases linked to their PFOA exposure.
- During initial bellwether trials held during 2015-2017, Taft helped lead trial teams that obtained verdicts in favor of cancer victims, including compensatory awards as high as $5.1 million and additional punitive damage awards as high as $10.5 million. During the fourth trial, on Feb. 13, 2017, a global settlement was reached to resolve the approximately 3500 then-pending personal injury claims in the C8 MDL for $670.7 million. In 2021, additional cases were settled in the C8 MDL for an additional $83 million, bringing the total recovered to over $753 million.
Minnesota PFAS Drinking Water Contamination
- Taft attorney Rob Bilott helped lead the first litigation in the country involving claims against 3M for damages associated with PFAS contamination. The litigation and related advocacy and activities led by Taft, led to installation of water filtration systems and additional scientific studies.
- Taft also assisted clients in several administrative and regulatory proceedings, including consent order negotiations, addressing the investigation and remediation of PFAS in Minnesota. Taft also assisted the Minnesota Attorney General’s Office by providing documents that helped lead to a $850 million settlement with 3M in connection with the first claims in the country brought by any state for natural resource damages from PFAS contamination.
New Jersey PFOA Drinking Water Contamination
- Taft attorney Rob Bilott was appointed one of Plaintiffs’ Class Counsel in litigation first filed in 2006 on behalf of those injured by PFOA released from a DuPont-owned manufacturing facility in New Jersey. The class action litigation and related advocacy and activities led by Taft led to a multi-million-dollar class settlement providing appropriate water treatment.
State and Water Provider PFAS Contamination Claims
- Taft attorneys, led by Rob Bilott, are currently representing various governmental entities across the country, including through state attorney’ generals’ offices and local water providers, in efforts to recover PFAS-related natural resource, water treatment, and other damages resulting from PFAS contamination.