From nonstick pans to waterproof and stain-proof clothing to improved firefighting foams, the use of per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) was ubiquitous in the latter half of the 20th century. In more recent years, we have learned more about the potential health effects of exposure to PFAS (even at very low levels). We have the ability to detect PFAS in the environment at increasingly lower levels, and we have discovered PFAS at more and more sites. The combination of these factors has led to countless PFAS-related lawsuits, in which plaintiffs are claiming damages for personal injury, medical monitoring, diminution of property values, and response costs. There is no indication that this will slow down anytime soon.
This article provides a summary of some of the more significant types and examples of PFAS lawsuits pending or recently settled in courts throughout the country. Manufacturers, utilities, developers, and risk managers would be wise to understand the issues being raised in PFAS litigation and develop risk-management strategies to avoid such litigation.