Per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) are chemical compounds that are recognized for their stability and water-resistant and stain-resistant properties earning them the moniker of “forever chemicals.” As a result of those properties, PFAS compounds are used in a wide range of product applications, including wire insulation, electronics, pharmaceuticals, paints and coatings, carpets and upholstery, textiles, personal care products (such as cosmetics, shampoos, lotions, toothpastes, dental floss), adhesives and sealants, pesticides, herbicides and firefighting foams. While there are thousands of PFAS compounds, perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) and perfluorooctanesulfonic acid (PFOS) are the more well-known and studied.

Due to their stability, PFAS compounds persist in the environment and have been found in drinking water, groundwater and soils and because PFAS are ubiquitous, data showing that most Americans have detectable levels of PFAS in their blood suggests that most Americans have measurable exposure to PFAS. It has been reported that PFOA and PFAS may cause a variety of health issues, including increased cholesterol levels, changes in liver enzymes, small decreases in infant birth weights, decreased vaccine response in children, increased high blood pressure or pre-eclampsia in pregnant women and increased kidney or testicular cancer. However, there remain many questions about the extent of such alleged health effects and various studies are underway to better evaluate and understand the potential health effects.

Nevertheless, litigation focused on PFAS began over 20 years ago and has increased dramatically in the past few years. Claims have been brought by water utilities, state attorneys general and individuals and their claims include remediation costs where PFAS is detected in groundwater and water supplies, diminished property values as a result of stigma or the presence of PFAS in wells, soils and groundwater and medical monitoring and personal injury for individuals exposed to PFAS. Manufacturers of PFAS were the initial targets of such litigation. In addition, the Biden administration has launched a roadmap to tackle PFAS issues and the EPA recently finalized a nationwide monitoring rule for 29 PFAS compounds in drinking water. That focus, some significant verdicts and settlements and the ubiquity of PFAS compounds have drawn the attention of plaintiffs’ attorneys. As a result, the targets of PFAS litigation are widening exponentially. Already, manufacturers that used PFAS in their products and property owners whose properties have measurable PFAS contamination are subjects of litigation and those numbers will only grow in the next few years.

Thompson Hine has a long history of helping clients navigate the complex legal issues accompanying these types of PFAS and other mass and toxic tort claims. We serve as national, regional and state counsel for Fortune 500 companies in cases throughout the United States.
Companies choose our firm to handle their mass and toxic tort cases because of our reputation as trial lawyers and our cross-disciplinary approach to litigation. We know how to win in court. Our clients know it, and so do our competitors. Should trial be the right strategy, we are skilled in handling every aspect of it, from pretrial discovery to motion practice, working with world-class expert witnesses, developing defense themes and overall case management through trial. We regularly handle environmental exposure mass and toxic torts, such as claims brought by residential property owners who allege personal injury and diminished property value as a result of contamination from a nearby facility. Those cases require that the defense strategy be coordinated with the regulatory compliance strategy and maintaining a consistent position in defending the litigation and fulfilling remediation obligations is critical. To ensure a coordinated strategy, we staff our matters with trial lawyers as well as environmental compliance lawyers who work together seamlessly to ensure that the client’s business objectives are met. But, handling mass and toxic tort trials, appeals and claim resolution is just a part of what we do. Preventive counseling, with the goal of avoiding lawsuits, is a strategic value we provide to our clients. We review regulatory and compliance issues and conduct audits to help clients identify and correct potential problems – before they occur.

Why Thompson Hine?

  • We have extensive experience in organizing, preparing and executing all aspects of mass and toxic tort defense, including discovery, pretrial proceedings and trial.
  • We have unmatched access to a cadre of world-renowned experts in various fields, including epidemiology, industrial hygiene, oncology, rheumatology, internal medicine, pathology, bacteriology, toxicology and environmental consulting.
  • We bring a multidisciplinary approach, utilizing lawyers in the areas of product liability, environmental and life sciences to serve our clients’ needs.
  • We have developed the staff, resources, technology and experience to efficiently manage tens of thousands of cases involving millions of documents.
  • We have established an extensive local counsel network to efficiently and cost-effectively manage national mass and toxic tort cases.
  • We utilize real-time compilation tools to share information and enhance communication.
  • We have significant sophisticated extranets, customized electronic invoicing and 24/7 IT support to efficiently manage client matters and communication.
  • We have lawyers who are members of the American College of Trial Lawyers, International Association of Defense Counsel, Defense Research Institute, International Society of Barristers, Network of Trial Law Firms, Federation of Defense & Corporate Counsel, The Force and United States Law Firm Group.

For more information, please contact:

William J. Hubbard

Timothy J. Coughlin

Joel D. Eagle

Andrew L. Kolesar