AFFF – Firefighter foam lawsuit

For decades, Aqueous Film Forming Foam (AFFF) has been used by military personnel, firefighters, and airport workers to put out liquid fires. Because AFFF has toxic chemicals and carcinogens, exposure to the product can lead to cancer and other health complications. The manufacturing companies knew the health risks involved with this product and refused to speak up and warn users.

If you or a family member incurred an illness due to AFFF exposure, you might be entitled to pursue compensation for your related losses. The Sentinel Group can connect you with a law firm that can manage your case and file an AFFF lawsuit while you focus on getting the treatment you need.

What is in AFFF?

According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), AFFF is made up of per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS), which are man-made, produced in high quantities, and cannot break down naturally. Perfluorooctane sulfonate (PFOS) and perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) are two types of PFAS that are present in AFFF. In addition, they are the most commonly studied and used PFAS in the United States. 

Because they consist of eight carbon chains, they can easily repel water and oil. Since AFFF has a high concentration of PFOA and PFOS, it is very effective in extinguishing liquid fires in chemical plants, oil refineries, offshore platforms, and airports.

However, PFOA has been identified as Class 2B, meaning it can be “possibly carcinogenic to humans,” as the American Cancer Society (ACS) explains. As such, these toxic chemicals can contaminate water, air, and soil.

How is firefighting foam contaminating the water?

After AFFF is extinguished, the groundwater absorbs it. Once that happens, the carcinogens found in AFFF contaminate the water. When those living in the surrounding area drink the water, they ingest these toxins, which could be detrimental to their health.

The government is aware of the health risk AFFF has imposed on the people who work with the product and who live in the vicinity of where it is used. According to the Governmental Accountability Office (GOA), the Department of Defense has taken action to prevent further harm. They have:

  • Installed water filtering systems
  • Provided more bottled water to residents

They are continuing to investigate alternative ways to ensure that the water is free of PFAS.

Does AFFF cause cancer?

Because AFFF has carcinogens, it can cause cancer in both humans and animals. People who have been exposed to AFFF can suffer:

  • Breast cancer
  • Pancreatic cancer
  • Hodgkin’s lymphoma
  • Kidney cancer
  • Liver cancer
  • Prostate cancer
  • Testicular cancer
  • Ovarian cancer
  • Bladder cancer
  • Thyroid cancer and disorders
  • Leukemia

If you are suffering from another type of cancer or illness after AFFF exposure, you still may be able to file an AFFF lawsuit. A lawyer in our network can review your situation and help determine your options.

AFFF exposure symptoms

You might not have been aware that you were exposed to firefighter foam, and now you might be suffering from health complications as a result. 

Cancer can be difficult to detect, especially in the early stages, but if you are aware of the symptoms, you can start treatment as soon as possible. The ACS notes that the following could be symptoms of cancer:

  • Fatigue, no matter how much rest you’re getting
  • Sudden weight gain or loss
  • Swollen lymph nodes
  • Lumps in the affected areas (particularly in breast and testicular cancer)
  • Unusual and random bruising or bleeding
  • Headaches
  • Persistent cough
  • Fevers
  • Night sweats
  • Problems with eating
  • Jaundice (when the skin or area around the eyes turns a yellowish color)
  • Blood in urine or changes in urination or bowel movement patterns
  • Problems with vision and/or hearing
  • Sores or bleeding in the mouth

Note that these are the most common symptoms of cancer. If you notice that there is anything abnormal about your body and how it functions, never brush off these symptoms. Go see your healthcare provider. 

Seeking medical attention can keep your condition from getting worse, and it may also show a connection between your cancer diagnosis and your exposure to AFFF. That way, the manufacturer’s insurance company will find it more difficult to dispute your claim.

People at risk of AFFF exposure

The following people can be at risk of exposure to AFFF:

  • Residents in an area where AFFF was used, as their drinking water or soil from their garden could have been contaminated
  • Airport workers if an aircraft catches fire and AFFF was the only resource they had at their disposal to extinguish the fire
  • Military personnel if they needed to use AFFF to extinguish fires during training
  • Firefighters who suffered exposure to AFFF
  • Chemical plant workers who used AFFF

Despite wearing protective gear, those who used AFFF at work could still risk exposure, as the product can seep in through other materials.

Side effects of AFFF exposure

How long, how much, and how often you were exposed to AFFF play a role in the side effects you can experience. The EPA points out that in addition to cancer, some other ailments you can suffer include:

  • High cholesterol
  • Hypertension and preeclampsia stemming from pregnancy
  • Higher amount of liver enzymes
  • Weaker response to vaccinations
  • Delays in fetal and childhood development
  • Low weight at birth
  • Other birth defects
  • Infertility
  • Compromised immune system
  • Asthma

Filing an AFFF contamination lawsuit

If you or a loved one has suffered from a disease or another complication that you believe stems from AFFF exposure, you have a right to hold the negligent party accountable for your damages.

Depending on where you live in the United States, you can bring an AFFF lawsuit against one of these companies:

  • 3M Company
  • Tyco Fire Products
  • Chemguard
  • Buckeye Fire Protection Company
  • National Foam, Inc

These companies, in addition to the ones not mentioned here, knew about the risks that AFFF imposed on users and bystanders for decades. They had an obligation to warn city and state governments about these dangers and failed to do so. Had they taken action earlier, many more lives could have been saved. Don’t let them get away with causing your illness.

How do AFFF suits work?

How AFFF lawsuits work depends on what type of legal action you would like to take: personal injury, class-action, or multidistrict litigation (MDL).

A personal injury lawsuit

A personal injury case allows a single individual to take legal action. A lawyer within our network can build a case around:  

  • The illness they have developed
  • Their financial and non-financial damages
  • Their prognosis if there is one

A class-action lawsuit

A class-action lawsuit is when a group of individuals who have suffered from a similar situation file one collective lawsuit to pursue compensation. Further, only one person from the group will speak on everyone else’s behalf and might even represent them in a trial. If the court awards compensation, then everyone in the group receives a portion.

In the case of a firefighting foam lawsuit, the class-action route could be beneficial because:

  • Your experience with the company’s negligence will be heard.
  • It can cut down on litigation costs.

For example, if you have minor complications from the exposure to AFFF, then pursuing a personal injury case might not be worth it after all the fees are deducted—you could be left with only a couple hundred dollars.

So, if you wish to submit a class-action lawsuit after you have been exposed to and suffered the consequences of AFFF, a lawyer can file your complaint with the court and request permission for prospective clients to join your case.

Multidistrict litigation (MDL)

The last option you have for filing a firefighter foam lawsuit is via multidistrict litigation (MDL). In this scenario, multiple federal cases from around the country are disputed in one court. Here’s how it works:

  • Pretrial proceedings
  • Discovery phase, otherwise known as the investigation
  • Settlement conferences
  • Bellwether trials, which test a jury’s response to the evidence
  • Settlement negotiations if bellwether trials go through

The judge will then urge each party to come to a settlement. If this step is not successful, then the cases will be sent back to the original courts for dispute.

This method can be beneficial for claimants, as there are more lawyers involved who can pool their resources together. Like class-action lawsuits, MDLs can be more cost-effective for claimants. 

Have any AFFF foam lawsuits been filed?

Per DrugWatch, an increasing amount of AFFF foam lawsuits has been filed, particularly by firefighters who have received a cancer diagnosis. Over 950 claims under MDL are pending in South Carolina’s federal court system.

Individuals are not the only ones to have taken action and filed an AFFF lawsuit. As such, many states are suing manufacturers, including 3M Company.

What compensation is available in an AFFF lawsuit?

You might be entitled to different forms of compensation in an AFFF lawsuit. The following list is not exhaustive, but among the most common damages are:

  • Past and future medical expenses: Your illness might have required you to have surgery, chemotherapy or radiation, diagnostic and blood tests, medication, and assistive medical equipment.
  • Past lost wages: If you were too sick to work, you might have missed out on bonuses, hourly pay, tips, vacation time, and other benefits.
  • Lost future earning potential: If you were forced to take on a job that doesn’t pay as much or you cannot go back to your original job, then we can request the difference in pay.
  • Property damage: If your home sustained damage due to the toxic chemicals from the AFFF, you can claim damages for repair or replacement costs.
  • Pain and suffering: This damage might include any physical discomfort or pain that comes with your illnesses and treatment.
  • Wrongful death damages: If you lost your loved one to the illness caused by AFFF, you may be able to recoup their final medical expenses and funeral costs, as well as your losses of financial support and companionship.

The types and amount of compensation you are able to receive will vary depending on the specifics of your case, like your occupation, age, marital status, financial status, and quality of life.

How do I know if I have a case?

To determine whether or not you have a case, you must first prove that you were exposed to AFFF—whether as a resident in an area in which AFFF was frequently used or as a worker who used it on the job.

Once a lawyer from our network shows this link, they can help prove the manufacturing company’s negligence using the following four tenets:

  • Duty of care: The manufacturing company was to use materials that would not cause harm or warn you of the dangers of the product.
  • Breach of duty: The company used hazardous materials in AFFF (which in this case would be PFAS), sold the product to the public, and failed to warn them about the dangers once it was made available.
  • Causation: Over time, exposure to AFFF caused you to develop cancer or another related illness.
  • Damages: Your illness and/or treatment has led to your medical bills, missed work, and pain and suffering.

You must prove all four of these elements to have a valid case. Otherwise, it will not be accepted. 

Evidence that can help your case

To help back up each of these claims, you must have different forms of evidence, some of which may be:

  • Your work history: This category of evidence can demonstrate how long you were out of work, how much pay you missed, and the type of profession you had (e.g., military, firefighter, airport worker, etc.).
  • Your residence: If you were exposed to AFFF at your residence, proof of residence will be paramount if AFFF was used in that particular area. 
  • Medical records: Your medical records document when you were first diagnosed with your illness, your treatment plan, doctors’ appointments, the medication(s) you took, and the type of symptoms you suffered. You will also want to include your doctor’s input about where the illness could have stemmed from.
  • Medical bills: These bills will be the foundation of your personal injury case, as they will illustrate the cost of your surgery, medications, any medical equipment you needed (e.g., crutches or wheelchair), cancer treatments, hospital rooms, tests, and follow-up visits with your doctor.
  • Other people’s testimonies: It may be beneficial for you to get the contact information of your coworkers who used AFFF alongside you at work or your neighbors if they suffered from contaminated water, soil, and air. They can talk about their experiences and how they affected their way of life.

You are not limited to showing only these forms of evidence. The smallest detail can make a world of difference in your fight for compensation.

AFFF lawsuit settlement amounts

The amount of compensation your AFFF lawsuit may yield depends on your situation and how you were affected. According to Quartz, a handful of lawsuits related to PFAS have been settled throughout the United States. To name a few:

  • DuPont and Chemours settled a lawsuit over 3,500 Ohioans and West Virginians after their product polluted a manufacturing plant located in Parkersburg, West Virginia. The case closed at $671 million.
  • Residents in Colorado, Michigan, New York, and Pennsylvania filed a class action case after exposure to water contaminated with PFAS. The lawsuit was settled at $13 million.
  • 3M Company agreed to pay $850 million to Minnesota after drinking water that had PFOA infused, according to Chemical & Engineering News.

Firefighter foam cash settlements

In January 2021, Tyco Fire Products settled with the residents of Wisconsin at $2.5 million in cash payouts. These people suffered from cancer, among other health complications, after their water was contaminated with PFOS that originated from firefighter foam.

The settlement covered about $15 million in property damage for homes and wells that were no longer useful.

Can I afford a lawyer?

Most personal injury law firms work for a contingency fee. What this payment arrangement entails is:

  • When you first call the firm, a member of the staff will provide you with a free consultation that comes with no obligation or financial risk.
  • If you decide to partner with the firm, there are no fees required up front or out of pocket.
  • The lawyer is not paid by the hour or in a lump sum.
  • The attorney’s fees come out of your final settlement or court award. It’s usually about 30 to 40 percent of the damages, as the American Bar Association (ABA) details.
  • If your lawyer cannot achieve a favorable financial outcome for you, they will walk away from the case without charging for their services.

When a lawyer works on a contingency-fee basis, you can obtain legal representation without risking further financial loss. Contingency fees also create an incentive for the lawyer to win your case. 

However, it is important to keep in mind that even though the attorneys finance your case until the end, other fees might be deducted from your potential settlement or court-awarded offer. For example, if they hired medical experts or other professionals to testify or you need to go to court, there may be separate fees involved. You can discuss the payment plan with the firm we connect you with.

Choosing an AFFF lawsuit attorney

Choosing the right AFFF Lawsuit attorney for any situation, especially an AFFF lawsuit, is crucial. After all, they are going to be going up against big corporations and advocating for you after you have suffered from an illness that has upended so many areas of your life.

When looking for the right personal injury attorney, it is recommended that you have the following in mind:

  • Check their track record: Many personal injury law firms have testimonials from previous clients, as well as their best case turnouts on their websites. This information can be a great indicator of what it is like to work with them.
  • Read about their practice areas: Personal injury law covers a wide range of areas, and not everyone handles product liability and/or class-action lawsuits. We have a nationwide network of law firms, and we can help connect you with one that can handle your case.
  • Their overall experience in the legal world: While you’re doing research, ask yourself questions about what you’re looking for in legal representation. How long has this firm been practicing? What parts of the country do they work in or are they familiar with? Do they usually take lawsuits to trial if it comes to that? What are their recognitions or achievements?

Whenever you read practice area pages on lawyers’ websites, they typically talk about the services they provide for their clients. They usually take on the following responsibilities:

  • Gathering, analyzing, and organizing evidence: Finding all forms of evidence on your own can be tedious and very daunting, so you should allow your lawyer to collect your medical records and bills, interview others who are in a similar situation to yours, take your account of what happened, and request access to your work records.
  • Identifying the liable party: We can look to see which manufacturer was responsible for providing the AFFF and ultimately contaminating your environment—whether it be at home or work.
  • Communicating with the parties involved: Talking to these big corporations’ insurance companies and legal teams on your own can be overwhelming. Your lawyer should have experience in this area, and they can communicate with the liable party and their representatives on your behalf. 
  • Maintaining consistent communication with you: If you are ever unsure about the legal process in general or your AFFF lawsuit, you shouldn’t hesitate to reach out to your assigned lawyer. They should be providing you with frequent case updates anyway.
  • Adhering to your state’s statute of limitations: Unfortunately, you don’t have forever to file your firefighting foam lawsuit. All states imposed a deadline in which you have to bring your lawsuit against the liable party. Your lawyer should be able to identify which one applies to your case and then help you comply with it.
  • Negotiating a settlement with the insurance company: Your AFFF lawsuit lawyer should be able to determine a low settlement offer from a sufficient one. If the insurer offers you the former option, your lawyer is to negotiate with them until both sides can agree on an amount. If that is not possible, then going to court might be the next step for your case.
  • Taking your AFFF lawsuit to trial: Not all personal injury law firms are willing to go to court and prefer to settle beforehand. Since your situation involves big companies, there is always that chance that it could go to trial. While you research, make sure you ask about the firm’s experience in the courtroom.

This list is just a general sense of what the lawyers should be able to do for you when they take on your firefighting foam lawsuit.

Get in touch with the Sentinel Group for your AFFF lawsuit today

The Sentinel Group is a referral service that helps you find the right law firm when you are looking to file a firefighting foam lawsuit. Don’t settle for dealing with the repercussions of contaminated water, soil, and air at work or home. We can connect you with mass tort lawyers who can help you hold the manufacturers responsible for their negligence.

Fill out our contact form today for assistance with your case.