Tyco Fire Products is a company known for manufacturing and testing firefighting foam containing “forever chemicals.” Recently, it settled with hundreds of homeowners over contamination found in private drinking wells, specifically Perfluorooctanoic acid (PFAS, which is also known as “C8.”). The company agreed to settle a class-action lawsuit with 271 class members for $17.5 million. Paul Napoli, an attorney with Napoli Shkolnik Law Firm, announced the settlement.
The class action also named Chemguard, Inc. and ChemDesign, Inc. as defendants. The The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported on the case.
Chemguard’s fire suppression product line includes foam concentrates; firefighting hardware; and engineered foam systems for industrial, military, municipal, offshore, petrochemical/energy, transportation/freight, and airport hangar applications. ChemDesign’s testing and processing sites are located in Wisconsin. The company has multiple production suites. Johnson Controls Fire Suppression Products, formerly Tyco Fire Protection Products, manufactures and delivers a range of fire suppression systems. These products include extinguishing agents, sprinkler systems, valves, piping products, fittings and fire-fighting equipment. The company says that it also provides services that help their customers save lives and protect property.
Tyco Settlement Details
It’s reported that $15 million of the settlement will be allocated for class-wide claims, such as property damage. The plan includes roughly $2.5 earmarked for those victims of testicular cancer, kidney cancer, ulcerative colitis, thyroid disease, and preeclampsia.
Attorney Napoli explained that residents could receive $60,000 to $70,000 per property, depending on the level of contamination. A special appointee of the judge will make these determinations in federal court in Charleston, South Carolina.
The Tyco settlement includes residents who lived in Peshtigo, Wisconsin between January 1, 1965, and December 31, 2020. Each person must have had a private well on their property within a specific area near the east by the bay of Green Bay, according to court documents.
“This settlement marks a significant step in victims’ efforts to secure just compensation for those impacted by PFAS contamination caused by (aqueous film-forming foam),” Napoli said in the release. “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.”
Judge Richard B. Gergel of the U.S. District Court for the District of South Carolina approved the settlement. The judge is in charge of all cases nationwide involving PFAS contamination from firefighting foam. Joan and Richard Campbell of Peshtigo, Wisconsin, originally filed against Tyco in 2018. The court found that PFAS contaminated their private well.
Other Class Actions will Use Peshtigo as a Template
Paul Napoli represents communities around the country whose residents have been inured by firefighting foam pollution. He is joined by Rob Bilott of Taft Stettinius & Hollister, who was featured in the 2019 film “Dark Waters” about the discovery of PFAS contamination that sickened a West Virginia community, according to an article in Timemagazine.
Napoli said the Tyco settlement is the first involving aqueous film-forming foam and sets the stage for future cases.
“If we extrapolate the numbers of what people will be getting to the larger United States and other communities affected, these manufacturers have a $300 billion problem,” he said.
The attorney thinks that future cases involving foam will likely have to follow the example of this settlement. He said it’s unlikely that a jury would decide in favor of a company, based on the information he’s seen in cases like this one. He commented that the manufacturers knew of the pollution but failed to tell residents.
Tyco denied any wrongdoing in the case in a release. But spokesperson Katie McGinty said during a news conference that the company recognizes the burden that dealing with PFAS has put on the community.
“This is an important part of our efforts to make this situation right,” McGinty said. “And we look forward to continuing to work with our neighbors now to actually clean up and remediate PFAS and restore clean and healthy water and soil.”
What are PFAS?
PFAS, or per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances, are a group of man-made chemicals. They have water-and stain-resistant qualities. Manufacturers like Tyco use them in products such as waterproof jackets, carpet, nonstick cookware, packaging, and firefighting foam. Numerous household products contain chemicals in this class of more than 5,000 substances.
PFAS remain in both the environment and human body over time. As a result, more than 95% of the U.S. population has PFAS in their bodies, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
Scientists have linked an accumulation of the chemicals in the body to cancer and to other adverse health effects. These chemicals have also been present in fish and deer. As a result, the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources has issued advisories.
Testing has revealed PFAS in water across Wisconsin. These include 52 sites of fires where firefighters used PFAS-containing foam to put out the flames. They also include landfills and spill sites.
In addition, testing has detected PFAS in the drinking water supplies of major cities like New York, Washington, D.C., and Chicago.