3M Co. has reached a revised multibillion-dollar PFAS settlement that includes an unconventional provision aimed at reducing future liabilities for both itself and water utility companies. This provision, known as a "Protection Against Claims-Over," marks a significant shift in dealing with potential litigation related to harmful “forever chemicals,” according to Bloomberg Law.
The revised settlement, valued at $12.5 billion, over $2 billion more than the original offer, was preliminarily approved by Judge Richard Mark Gergel, who is overseeing the ongoing multidistrict litigation involving firefighting foam containing per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS).
The "Protection Against Claims-Over" provision, which replaces the previous "Contribution and Indemnity" section in 3M’s original PFAS settlement plan, prevents 3M from reclaiming funds provided to water utilities in the event of successful lawsuits against the company for harm related to contaminated drinking water. The previous “Contribution and Indemnity” provision could have left water utilities vulnerable to excessive damages beyond their expected recovery from the settlement.
The finalization of the settlement is contingent on water utilities opting in or out, and a scheduled final hearing on February 2, 2024. 3M's payments will be distributed until 2036.
Legal experts caution that over time, cancer clusters resulting from PFAS-contaminated water may emerge through medical monitoring. That raises concern for plaintiffs’ advocates because the settlement provides protections for both 3M and water utilities by preventing utilities from demanding additional funds from 3M if they opt into the settlement.
Moreover, the revised settlement safeguards water utilities against potential liabilities if 3M faces successful lawsuits, ensuring that 3M cannot seek financial assistance from utilities that have already settled.
As a result, water utilities that may face PFAS litigation may try to recoup litigation costs from companies beyond PFAS manufacturers that have contributed to the release of these chemicals into local drinking water supplies.
Despite the settlement plan, 3M and other PFAS manufacturers face ongoing liability risks to other aspects of PFAS production, usage, and exposure, and the plan itself may be vulnerable to future legal challenges.
Numerous lawsuits have already been filed by states, firefighters, and other parties seeking compensation for alleged harms not addressed by 3M's settlement or similar settlements offered by other companies. Additionally, new lawsuits are expected, with farmers and others seeking funds for property damage and injuries linked to PFAS.
Attorneys general from several states and the District of Columbia have expressed dissatisfaction with 3M's settlement, stating that it falls short of addressing the damages caused by PFAS products to public water systems, arguing that the financial burden of PFAS contamination has been placed upon taxpayers.
Some experts would rather see a PFAS settlement similar to the 1998 tobacco Master Settlement Agreement. However, one barrier to such a master PFAS settlement is that unlike tobacco’s unambiguous link to smoking-related diseases, the scientific consensus surrounding PFAS’ effects on health lacks thorough understanding.
If you have been harmed by toxic chemicals, a medical device, drug or consumer product, contact MedTruth for a free case evaluation. All of the firms we work with are based on contingency, and you’ll pay no fees unless a settlement is reached on your behalf.