Product Liability

Toxic PFAS in fire fighting foam leads to $17.5 million settlement

February 3, 2021

The first of the fire fighting foam lawsuits to be heard in court, one of many included in the Multi-District Litigation, resulted in a settlement agreement that totaled $17.5 million. The settlement resolves the claims of nearly 300 Wisconsin residents whose drinking water was contaminated and health put at risk due to the fire fighting foam.

In January, Tyco Fire Products LP, an entity of Johnson Controls, agreed to a $17.5 million settlement to resolve claims that chemicals in their firefighting foam (AFFF) caused water contamination, property damage, and certain diseases including testicular cancer and kidney cancer. This lawsuit sought to resolve the claims of around 300 homeowners in Peshtigo, Wisconsin where Tyco Fire Products designed and tested AFFF for a variety of purposes that led to the contamination of private drinking wells.  

The lawsuit is one of dozens moving forward in the sprawling multi-district litigation (MDL) that claims AFFF contains harmful perfluoroalkyl and polyfluoroalkyl substances, known as PFAS. These PFAS can seep into the ground and contaminate water sources near where AFFF is used. The chemicals have been linked to a range of health complications such as high blood pressure, thyroid disease, and several other potential complications found in a study held by the C8 Science Panel.

This Wisconsin case is a major step forward in the MDL as Tyco admitted to the dangers created by AFFF and is willing to settle claims with those who have been affected. Katie McGinty, a spokesperson for Tyco, said at a press conference:

"Tyco is pleased to announce that we have reached a settlement agreement with plaintiffs whose private drinking wells are impacted by PFAS from our property. We recognize that dealing with PFAS has been a burden, and we are happy that this important aspect of making the situation right, has come together."

Part of a settlement agreement, typically, includes the defendant’s ability to maintain denial of the allegations. But Tyco admitting to the harm that PFAs can have on humans is a massive advantage for the rest of the cases that are included in the MDL. While this is not a guarantee that the MDL will reach a favorable settlement for the plaintiffs, the case against the defendants is strong and those representing the plaintiffs are confident they have a good case to present.  

Paul Napoli, an attorney with Napoli Shkolnik PLLC, who represents the plaintiffs, said in a statement, “this settlement marks a significant step in victims' efforts to secure just compensation for those impacted by PFAS contamination caused by AFFF."  Napoli also stated that the settlement is “a tacit recognition that this is a major problem that will have to be dealt with community by community. This is the beginning of a bigger check that these companies are going to have to write.”  

Although most people have been exposed to PFAS at low levels, individuals with higher exposure, including firefighters, military personnel, and residents living near military bases, are at a greater risk of PFAS-related health problems. Studies suggest that certain PFAS may be associated with:

  • Kidney cancer
  • Testicular cancer
  • Pancreatic cancer
  • Bladder cancer
  • Leukemia
  • Lymphoma
  • Neuroendocrine tumors
  • Prostate cancer

In addition to the potential for these cancers to develop, PFAS may also be associated with:

  • Increased risk of thyroid disease
  • Liver damage
  • Increased risk of asthma
  • Increased cholesterol
  • Fertility issues and changes in fetal and child development
  • Changes in the immune system

We will continue to monitor the case and bring you any updates as the MDL progresses. If you are a veteran of a military base or resident who lived near a military base and developed cancer, you may be entitled to compensation without ever going to court. Fill out our free case review here and a legal professional will contact you to help determine if you have a claim. If you do not receive a recovery through a lawsuit or settlement, you don’t owe us anything.

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