We will take a brief look in this issue at some of the major environmental litigation that our firm will be involved in during 2018. Lawyers in our Toxic Torts Section, headed by Rhon Jones, handle this litigation.
Nearly 200 local governments, and several states, have filed lawsuits against prescription opioid manufacturers and distributors in an effort to curb the ongoing opioid epidemic. Recently, our firm filed lawsuits on behalf of Houston County and the City of Greenville and we are currently representing over 25 other local governments.
For now, all of the cases appear to be civil lawsuits seeking monetary damages to help the governments recoup the money lost to fighting the epidemic. Many of the lawsuits also hope to force drugmakers to change their marketing tactics, which they argue are deceptive, to make it clearer just how addictive the pills can be.
There are many other Cities and Counties in Alabama that have been disproportionately impacted by prescription opioid abuse that not have not yet filed suit. Alabama has one of the highest rate of prescription opioid use in the country with more prescriptions being written than people living in the state.
We expect that many more states and local governments around the country will file lawsuits against opioid manufacturers and distributors in the coming months. If you need additional information relating to this litigation, contact Rhon Jones, head of our Toxic Torts Section, at 800-898-2034 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Rhon, Rick Stratton and Will Sutton are handling this litigation for the firm.”
The Trump administration has recently unveiled its proposal to permit drilling in most U.S. continental-shelf waters, including currently protected areas of the Arctic and Atlantic, and has also proposed opening nearly 77 million more acres in the Gulf of Mexico to companies wishing to purchase federal oil and gas leases. The Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, which oversees offshore leasing, has promised that the marine environment will be protected as the United States pursues an energy dominance agenda.
Needless to say, this controversial proposal has been opposed by many outside the oil and gas industry. Offshore drilling led to the worst environmental disaster in U.S. history, the 2010 Deepwater Horizon explosion and subsequent oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. The effects of that spill are still being felt almost eight years later, and many are worried that the increased risks of additional drilling outweigh the potential rewards.
PFC Water Contamination
As previous issues of the Report discussed, the contamination of drinking water from perfluorinated chemicals (PFCs) is a nationwide problem. Testing found traces of two of the most well-studied PFCs, perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) and perfluorooctanesulfonic acid (PFOS), in 162 water systems serving 15.1 million Americans.
A recent report from Eurofins Eaton Analytical laboratories suggests that our nation’s drinking water may be more contaminated than originally thought. The lab, which has conducted testing for the EPA, found that up to 28 percent of water systems nationwide serving more than 10,000 customers contain some levels of the perfluorochemicals PFOA and PFOS. This is significantly higher than the 4 percent originally reported by the EPA in 2016 and means that millions more Americans could unknowingly be exposed to some levels of PFOA and PFOS.
PFOA and PFOS persist in the environment for years and accumulate in the body. Exposure over one’s lifetime can lead to a number of health problems including testicular cancer, kidney cancer, ulcerative colitis, thyroid disease, high cholesterol and pregnancy-induced hypertensions. Consequently, the EPA set a lifetime health advisory of exposure to PFOA and PFOS at 70 parts per trillion in May 2016.
These unregulated chemicals were tested by the EPA between 2013 and 2015 as part of the Third Unregulated Contaminant Monitoring Rule. According to Eaton, the EPA set the “minimum reporting level” (the lowest amount of a chemical the EPA said could reliably be detected) too high, which resulted in underreporting the number of contaminated water systems. Rather than selecting 20 ppt for PFOA and 40 ppt for PFOS, Eaton states the chemicals can be detected as low as 2.5 ppt.
Eaton reanalyzed the EPA’s data and, after dropping the MRL to 5 ppt, found at least one of six PFCs in samples from 511 water systems, or 28 percent of those tested serving approximately 13.8 million people. PFOA was discovered in 12.5 percent of the systems while PFOS was found in 11.5 percent, compared to less than 1 percent reported by the EPA. According to Eaton’s data, five states had more than 40 systems detect either PFOA or PFOS: Alabama, California, Massachusetts, New Jersey and South Carolina.
More testing is needed to fully understand the extent of chemical contamination of our nation’s water. As the results of ongoing testing are revealed, we expect lawsuits filed by water systems and residents to increase in the upcoming year.
Our firm, along with Roger H. Bedford of Roger Bedford & Associates, has filed lawsuits on behalf of the water systems in Gadsden and Centre, Alabama. These complaints allege that carpet and textile companies, manufacturers, and chemical suppliers located upstream in Dalton, Georgia are responsible for contaminating the Coosa River and Weiss Lake. The lawsuits were filed to ensure that these entities, not ratepayers in Gadsden and Centre, would pay to decontaminate their drinking water.
Lawyers at Beasley Allen are investigating other PFC contamination cases. If you have any questions about this subject, contact Rhon Jones, Rick Stratton, or Ryan Kral, lawyers in our firm’s Toxic Torts Section, at 800-898-2034 or by email at Rhon.Jones@beasleyallen.com, Rick.Stratton@beasleyallen.com, or Ryan.Kral@beasleyallen.com.
PFC National Litigation Update
Water systems nationwide are filing lawsuits against alleged polluters to recoup costs incurred to deliver clean water to their customers. Individuals are also suing these companies for contaminating private wells and causing personal injuries. These lawsuits help illustrate the widespread use of PFCs across a variety of industries.
As discussed above, the carpet industry relies heavily on PFCs and related chemicals to manufacture carpet that is stain-resistant. Many companies in the textile industry use PFCs or related chemicals to apply stain or water-resistant qualities to their products. For example, Michigan’s Department of Environmental Quality recently sued a leather tannery for contaminating the drinking water of nearby residents. Manufacturers of these chemicals have also been sued in Decatur, Alabama and in North Carolina.
In addition, PFCs are present in some firefighting foams used to fight petroleum fires. Therefore, fire departments, the military, and airports have been identified as potential sources of contamination in Colorado, North Carolina, New Hampshire, Pennsylvania, Washington, and Massachusetts. These entities appear to be the most common polluters of contaminated water systems identified by the EPA in 2016.
Although we are in the infancy of this litigation, settlements have been reached with Daikin America in Decatur, Alabama and with the County of Barnstable, Massachusetts. The military is also involved in ongoing discussions with residents who live on or nearby military bases across the country. While these signs are encouraging, we expect more lawsuits to be filed to hold polluters accountable for contaminating Americans’ drinking water.
In 2017 there was an increase in lawsuits filed by farmers against Monsanto, BASF, and DuPont regarding the herbicide dicamba. The complaints generally allege that dicamba tends to “drift” and cause damage to non-dicamba-resistant neighboring crops during and after its application to a target crop.
Prior to the 2017 growing season, farmers were not allowed to use dicamba on growing plants. They could use it before planting their seeds or after harvesting their crops. In 2016, that changed when the EPA allowed new formulations of dicamba to be applied over the top of growing plants due to the manufacturer’s claims that the new formulations were less volatile.
Unsurprisingly, farmers in more than two dozen states reported problems in 2017. The problems were so severe and widespread that in July 2017 Missouri and Arkansas introduced short-term bans on the herbicide. In response, the EPA toughened its dicamba regulations for 2018.
Many farmers have already filed lawsuits against Monsanto, BASF, and DuPont alleging that they have suffered crop damage or losses because of dicamba’s off-target movement. These filings are expected to increase well into 2018.
The E-cigarette Litigation
More than 120 lawsuits were filed across the United States in 2017 by Plaintiffs hurt in explosions and fires involving e-cigarette devices. Most Plaintiffs have alleged they were burned around their legs or groin when vaporizer batteries they were carrying in their pocket caught fire. A few Plaintiffs have alleged that electronic cigarettes have exploded in their mouth, knocking out teeth and causing facial burns. However, the first wrongful death lawsuit was recently filed in California.
Most lawsuits involving e-cigarette injuries will be products liability claims, alleging one of three causes for the malfunction:
• Defects in Design: A defect causes the e-cigarette to pose an unreasonable risk to consumers, even if it is manufactured and used as intended;
• Defects in Manufacturing: A mistake in the production of a well-designed e-cigarette introduces a new danger to consumers; or
• Defects in Warnings: A company’s failure to properly warn consumers of known risks in using e-cigarettes, if there are inadequate warnings, inaccurate warnings, or no warnings at all.
So far, the e-cigarette litigation has not shown any signs of slowing down in 2018. In fact, the U.S. Fire Administration’s statistics indicate that e-cigarette fire incidents have been steadily increasing, coinciding with rapid growth of vaping products into a popular alternative to smoking tobacco.
E-cigarettes have turned into a multibillion-dollar industry, and according to a 2016 National Health Interview Survey, roughly 15 percent of adults reported that they had used vaping products at some point.
If you have any questions regarding the litigation, or if you would like for us to review a potential claim, contact Rhon Jones or Will Sutton, lawyers in our firm’s Toxic Torts Section, at 800-898-2034 or by email at Rhon.Jones@beasleyallen.com or Will.Sutton@beasleyallen.com.
Beasley Allen lawyers continue to handle mesothelioma cases in our region and throughout the country. These are devastating for families who have a loved one diagnosed with mesothelioma, as the cancer is terminal and is caused by exposure to asbestos. We have helped numerous families navigate this difficult path. Rhon Jones is the lead lawyer in these cases for our firm and he can be reached at email@example.com.”
Roundup Litigation Update
Lawyers at Beasley Allen are actively investigating cases on behalf of farmers, landscapers, or others who used commercial-grade Roundup on a large scale and subsequently developed non-Hodgkins Lymphoma (NHL). The active ingredient in Roundup is a broad system herbicide and crop desiccant called glyphosate. Roundup is manufactured by Monsanto, and is the company’s flagship product – glyphosate is the most widely used weed killer in the world.
In July 2015, the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) issued a report determining that glyphosate is “probably carcinogenic to humans,” and specifically linked Roundup exposure to the development of NHL. Monsanto claims that the IARC is wrong and that Roundup is harmless to humans, yet internal company emails released in the last year show that Monsanto may have influenced supposedly “independent” studies that concluded Roundup was safe.
Hundreds of lawsuits are currently pending against Monsanto Co. in U.S. District Court in San Francisco, filed by plaintiffs alleging that their exposure to Roundup caused them or their loved ones to develop NHL and that Monsanto covered up the risks of using their product. These cases have been consolidated into a multidistrict litigation, and Daubert hearings are currently scheduled for the week of March 5, 2018. There are also several thousand similar claims filed against Monsanto in state court.
If you would like more information, you can contact Grant Cofer, a lawyer in Toxic Torts Section. He can be reached at 800-898-2034 or by email at Grant.Cofer@beasleyallen.com.
Benzene Litigation Update
Benzene is a carcinogenic liquid that is widely used throughout the United States. Benzene is among the top 20 chemicals produced by volume each year and is used in a number of industries and products, yet many people remain unaware of the toxic danger posed by this chemical. Some industries in which benzene is commonly used include the manufacture of plastics, resins, lubricants, rubbers, solvents, and degreasers. Exposure to products containing benzene can cause can cause life threatening diseases, including Acute Myeloid Leukemia (AML), Myelodysplastic Syndrome (MDS), Aplastic Anemia, and other types lymphomas and blood illnesses. Occupations in which workers may be exposed to benzene include:
• Tire and rubber workers
• Gasoline workers
• Railroad and seamen
The seriousness of the poisoning caused by benzene depends on the amount, route, and length of time of exposure, with chronic long-term exposure carrying the most risk. Because the diseases caused by benzene exposure do not manifest for several years after exposure to the chemical, many individuals may not recognize that there is any connection between their disease and their past chemical exposure.
Beasley Allen is currently pursuing cases on behalf of clients who developed one of these types of leukemias or lymphomas following exposure to benzene-containing products. If a person has been diagnosed with one of these diseases and has a history of chronic benzene exposure, we are interested in investigating whether they have a potential claim.
If you would like more information, you can contact John Tomlinson, a lawyer in Toxic Torts Section. He can be reached at 800-898-2034 or by email at John.Tomlinson@beasleyallen.com.
If you have any questions about any of the above, contact Sandra Walters, the Toxic Torts Section Director, at 800-898-2034 or by email at Sandra.Walters@beasleyallen.com. Sandra will put you in touch with a lawyer.