Milestone Class Settlement: AFFF MDL Litigation
January 8, 2021 | Environmental Litigation
Napoli Shkolnik lawyers representing individuals in the Town of Peshtigo, Wisconsin, announced that they have reached an agreement in principal with Tyco Fire Products L.P., Chemguard, Inc., and ChemDesign, Inc. (“Defendants”) to settle a putative class action addressing certain claims of damage arising from contamination of dozens of privately-owned drinking water wells in the Town of Peshtigo with per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (“PFAS”) attributable to the use and release of Aqueous Film-Forming Foam (“AFFF”).
Since steps are already being taken to provide clean water to the affected residents, this new settlement focuses on providing mechanisms to compensate for property damage, PFAS exposure, and individual disease claims. The total settlement amount is $17.5 million, with $15 million being allocated to class-wide claims and $2.5 million being allocated to individual disease claims. The $15 million allocated to class claims will provide compensation to class members for property damage, and to compensate class members for harms allegedly arising from their exposure to PFAS in the private drinking water wells. The remaining $2.5 million will provide compensation on an individual basis to those in the class area that have been diagnosed with any of the following five diseases: 1) testicular cancer; 2) kidney cancer; 3) ulcerative colitis; 4) thyroid disease; and 5) preeclampsia.
One of the attorneys who negotiated the settlement for the proposed class, Paul Napoli, stated: “This settlement marks a significant step in victims’ efforts to secure just compensation for those impacted by PFAS contamination caused by AFFF. But there is still more work to do as we continue to seek to hold the manufacturers of these chemicals accountable for the harm they’ve inflicted on individuals and the environment.” Mr. Napoli is currently Co-Lead Counsel for plaintiffs in nationwide multidistrict litigation (“MDL”) involving dozens of lawsuits from across the country that involve harm allegedly attributable to AFFF. Rob Bilott of Taft Stettinius & Hollister LLP, who is Advisory Counsel for plaintiffs in the AFFF MDL and working with Mr. Napoli as proposed co-class counsel for this settlement, added: “To be able to offer a settlement like this that provides, not only compensation for property damage caused by PFAS in AFFF, but compensation for human exposure to that PFAS in drinking water and for diseases previously linked by the independent C8 Science Panel to PFAS exposure is a huge milestone for those harmed by AFFF.”
The settlement is subject to approval by Judge Richard B. Gergel of the U.S. District Court for the District of South Carolina, who is overseeing coordinated pre-trial proceedings in the AFFF MDL. If approved, the settlement would be the first of its kind in the nationwide federal multidistrict litigation pending before Judge Gergel.
The putative class action was originally filed in December 2018 by Joan and Richard Campbell, two residents of the Town of Peshtigo whose property, like many others located in the Town, has a private well that supplies water for drinking and other uses to the home. The case is styled Campbell et al., v. Tyco Fire Products LP et al., No. 2:19-cv-00422-RMG, and is currently part of the nationwide AFFF MDL proceedings. The settling defendants have denied any wrongdoing in the case.
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