A brief overview of the evolving legal landscape of per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) litigation.
Although lawsuits related to PFAS often revolve around environmental damage, product liability, and personal injuries, recent trends show a surge in cases based on consumer protection. Utilizing multiple consumer protection laws present across the U.S., consumers are increasingly filing claims alleging deceptive or fraudulent practices linked to their purchase decisions. In PFAS-related cases, the grievances typically fall under one or more of the following categories:
- Claims stating that products with PFAS are safe for use;
- Claims promoting PFAS-containing products as eco-friendly; and
- Alleged lack of transparency about PFAS content in products.
In these suits, consumers argue that if they had been aware of PFAS in the products, they either wouldn’t have purchased them or would have paid a reduced price. These cases often include other allegations such as fraud, negligence, breach of warranties, and unjust gains.
Focal Points of Legal Actions
Legal representatives for plaintiffs often rely on questionable testing methodologies to claim that consumer products conceal the presence of PFAS. These tests are indiscriminately applied to a broad array of products without proper validation or consideration of their applicability for detecting PFAS types. Cosmetics manufacturers find themselves especially targeted, as plaintiffs concentrate on claims that these products are “pure,” “natural,” or “healthy” as grounds for potential class-action lawsuits.
Food packaging is also a common subject of litigation, where the plaintiff’s argument is that, contrary to company claims, the supposed presence of PFAS makes these packaging materials unfit for food contact. Other items under scrutiny vary from feminine hygiene products to an array of consumables like fruit juices, microwave popcorn, and pet food, as well as car seats.
What the Future Holds
Consumer class-action lawsuits involving PFAS are still an emerging phenomenon, and it remains uncertain if these cases will gain class certification. As these legal proceedings unfold, defendants are likely to challenge the scientific foundations of the plaintiff’s claims, which will shape the trajectory of future cases in this area.
At this juncture, the number of such lawsuits is on an upward trend, and it is expected that an increasing array of products will become subjects of consumer protection cases focused on PFAS. Keeping abreast of ongoing litigations and the evolving scientific discourse will be key for victims to prepare their cases accordingly.
Initiating a Lawsuit Over PFAS Contamination
If you suspect that you’ve been impacted by per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) — chemicals commonly found in a variety of consumer products and industrial applications — you may be considering legal action. Here’s a guide on how to initiate a lawsuit over PFAS issues:
Step 1: Gather Preliminary Evidence
Collect all information that you believe substantiates your claim. This could include medical records, purchase receipts of the suspected product, or environmental reports if applicable. Documentation can help establish a connection between the PFAS exposure and the damage or injury you’ve suffered.
Step 2: Consult Our Attorneys
Consult an attorney who specializes in environmental law, product liability, or personal injury, depending on the nature of your claim. Provide all the gathered information and discuss the merits and complexities of your case. A qualified lawyer can guide you on whether you have a strong case and what kind of damages you may be entitled to.
Step 3: Choose The Right Legal Strategy
There are various types of claims that can be filed in relation to PFAS, such as personal injury, property damage, or consumer protection-based claims. Your attorney can help you decide which is most appropriate for your situation. If there are ongoing class-action lawsuits related to the issue, you might also consider joining one of those.
Step 4: File the Lawsuit
If you and your attorney decide to proceed, the next step is filing a complaint in the appropriate court. This formal document will outline your allegations, the legal grounds for your case, and the compensation you are seeking.
Step 5: Pre-trial Proceedings
After the lawsuit is filed, both parties will engage in ‘discovery,’ where they exchange information and evidence. This is also the time when pre-trial motions are filed, witnesses are deposed, and expert opinions are gathered. Depending on the findings, your attorney may advise you to settle out of court.
Step 6: Trial
If the case isn’t settled during pre-trial proceedings, it will go to trial. Here, both parties will present their arguments and evidence before a judge or a jury. After deliberation, a verdict will be issued, which may include monetary compensation if you win the case.
Step 7: Appeal, If Necessary
If the verdict is not in your favor, consult with your attorney about the possibility of filing an appeal. Appeals can be a lengthy process and require strong grounds for reconsideration.
Step 8: Settlement and Compensation
If you win, the final step is receiving the awarded damages, which may come in the form of a lump-sum payment or structured settlements over time.
Stay Informed and Updated
Given that PFAS litigation is a rapidly evolving field, staying updated on related legislation, scientific studies, and similar cases can be advantageous. Consult your attorney throughout the process to adapt your strategy as needed and to ensure you’re making informed decisions every step of the way.
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