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Oklahoma Firefighter Foam Lawsuit: Get the Right Attorney

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Collen Clark Published by Collen Clark

Oklahoma firefighters are taking a stand against the dangers of AFFF exposure through a series of lawsuits. If you’re tracking the Oklahoma firefighter foam lawsuit, stay informed on critical legal developments, health implications, and navigating the path to compensation.

This article delivers the essential details without overwhelming you with the complexities often associated with legal discourse.

If you or a loved one has been impacted by firefighting foam exposure, Schmidt & Clark LLP stands prepared to offer support. With a reputation for excellence in plaintiff representation, our primary focus is on helping you achieve the justice and compensation you rightfully deserve.

Firefighting Foam Cancer Lawsuits

In the heart of the firefighting community, a storm has been brewing. AFFF, or Aqueous Film Forming Foam, once hailed as a hero in extinguishing Class B fires, has become a villain. Over recent years, a wave of firefighting foam lawsuits has emerged, with a staggering total of 6,994 firefighting foam lawsuit cases as of February 2024.

The lawsuits, part of an AFFF class action lawsuit multi-district litigation, are urging prompt filings for better positioning in settlements. With the next Case Management Conference for the AFFF litigation scheduled for March 1, 2024, the legal proceedings are very much active.

Key Points from Lawsuits

Across the country, fire departments, military bases, and airports, including those in Oklahoma, relied heavily on AFFF for its effectiveness in extinguishing fires. However, the shine of this firefighting foam started to tarnish as health risks associated with exposure to PFAS (Per- and Polyfluoroalkyl Substances) chemicals in AFFF surfaced.

A wave of legal action against chemical manufacturers ensued, with over 3,000 cases pending as of November 2022, reflecting a growing concern amongst affected professionals.

The crux of these AFFF lawsuits is the increased occurrence of various cancers, including kidney, testicular, and thyroid cancer, among firefighters. The allegations are serious, and the consequences are dire. Now, let’s unravel the substance that’s causing this uproar – AFFF.

What Is AFFF?

According to the Division of Spill Prevention and Response, AFFF is also known as Aqueous Film Forming Foam, which is a type of firefighting foam that is extensively used by fire departments, the military, and airports across the country [1]. AFFF is known for its efficacy in putting out Class B fires that involve flammable or combustible liquids. 

However, this very effectiveness hid a dark secret, a ticking time bomb that would eventually lead to numerous AFFF firefighting foam lawsuits.

The culprit behind the health risks associated with AFFF is a group of artificial chemicals known as PFAS (Per- and Polyfluoroalkyl Substances). These chemicals, often termed ‘forever chemicals’, have the ability to persist in the environment and the human body, leading to cumulative exposure over time.

Who Are The Defendants In AFFF Lawsuits in Oklahoma?

The defendants in AFFF lawsuits in Oklahoma are significant corporations such as 3M Company, DuPont, Buckley Fire Production, and Tyco Fire Products. These companies are known for their involvement in the production and sale of firefighting foams.

These corporations are key defendants in the Oklahoma AFFF lawsuits due to their role in manufacturing and selling PFAS-containing firefighting foams.

These defendants face allegations of product liability for:

  • defective design
  • failure to warn
  • negligence
  • other claims indicating a concealment of the health risks associated with their AFFF products

Companies like 3M have attempted to claim immunity from liability through the government contractor defense in the field of disease control. Still, these arguments have met legal challenges and are being contested in court.

Amidst the legal battles, E.I. DuPont and Chemours are criticized for conducting restructuring transactions in a manner accused of shielding assets from PFAS-related liabilities.

As stated by the National Cancer Institute, the connection between AFFF and cancer is not just a theoretical assumption; it’s a painful reality for many [2]. Take the case of Tracy Mitchem, a former Air Force firefighter from Oklahoma. Mitchem filed a lawsuit against AFFF manufacturers after being diagnosed with prostate cancer.

Similarly, a study in Indiana found higher cancer mortality for firefighters compared to non-firefighters. Significantly elevated risk of skin, thyroid, testicular, and prostate cancer was also reported for male firefighters in Florida – National Library of Medicine

His exposure to toxic AFFF occurred from 1982 to 1989, during his military service that involved frequent training exercises and firefighting activities. His story is a sobering reminder of these ‘forever chemicals’ potential dangers.

Does Firefighting Foam Contain PFAS?

According to the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, firefighting foam does contain PFAS, a group of artificial chemicals that have earned the ominous label of ‘forever chemicals’. These chemicals are present in AFFF and can persist in the environment and the human body, leading to cumulative exposure over time [3].

The potential health risks of effects from PFAS exposure can vary greatly, influenced by factors such as:

  • dosage
  • exposure frequency and duration
  • individual sensitivity
  • overall disease burden

Addressing PFAS contamination is an intricate challenge given the vast number of these chemicals present in various consumer, commercial, and industrial products.

Containing PFAS, AFFF has become a significant concern for the health of firefighters and military personnel. But what are these health hazards, and how grave can they be? Let’s discover.

Common Injuries Linked To Firefighting Foam PFAS

Exposure to PFAS through AFFF has been scientifically associated with an increased risk of developing cancers, including those who have developed cancer such as:

Reports from ongoing lawsuits also link AFFF with specific cancers, such as kidney cancer, testicular cancer, thyroid disease, and ulcerative colitis. The allegations are serious, and the consequences are dire.

Beyond the direct cancer risk, exposure to PFAS has been associated with broader health issues such as hormonal imbalances, immune system impairments, and liver toxicity, contributing to the overall risk profile of these chemicals. As we grasp the severity of these health risks, it’s critical to understand who qualifies for an AFFF lawsuit in Oklahoma.

Who Qualifies for the AFFF Lawsuit in Oklahoma?

Individuals who have regularly used AFFF on the job after 1960 and have a diagnosis related to PFAS exposure qualify for the AFFF lawsuit in Oklahoma.

In other words, eligibility is generally determined by occupational exposure to AFFF, the presence of a related cancer diagnosis or health issues, evidence of exposure, and subsequent damages. Plaintiffs with a history of occupational AFFF exposure who developed specific types of cancers may join the AFFF lawsuit.

However, there are certain restrictions to be aware of. Individuals must have been discharged from military service under conditions other than dishonorable to be eligible, and firefighters who file a claim must do so against all responsible AFFF manufacturers. Eligibility is restricted to firefighters or military personnel who used AFFF; minors are not eligible for compensation.

How Do AFFF Lawsuits Work?

AFFF lawsuits work by initially requiring plaintiffs to provide medical records and court documents, such as a complaint or petition. As part of a larger multi-district litigation, these cases are often centralized in a single district court for consolidated pretrial proceedings, which helps to streamline the legal process.

These grouped cases are then governed by the discovery rule, which dictates that the statute of limitations begins when the plaintiff becomes aware of their injury and its link to the defendant’s actions. This discovery rule could extend the typical two to three-year statute of limitations for filing a lawsuit.

Scientific evidence, such as data on PFAS and its potential regulations, plays a crucial role in court proceedings and can strongly influence the establishment of plaintiffs’ damages claims. 

Mediation sessions led by appointed mediators may be conducted to facilitate settlement discussions and resolve the case before setting trial dates.

Firefighting Foam Cancer Lawsuits Settlement Amounts in Oklahoma

The settlement amounts in AFFF lawsuits are mainly determined by factors such as the level of exposure to PFAS chemicals, the severity of the health condition diagnosed, such as cancer, and associated medical expenses.

Economic losses comprising medical bills and lost wages and non-economic losses, including emotional distress and loss of consortium, are key components of damages claimed in AFFF lawsuit settlements.

Large settlement proposals like 3M Co.’s estimated $10.5 billion for public water systems could set precedents impacting subsequent compensation figures in personal injury and wrongful death lawsuits relating to AFFF exposure. 

Potential Compensation for Victims of Firefighting Foam Cancer Lawsuits in Oklahoma

Compensatory damages in AFFF lawsuits may cover a broad range of financial impacts, including:

  • Medical expenses
  • Lost wages
  • Pain and suffering
  • Emotional distress
  • Loss of earning ability
  • Loss of enjoyment of life
  • Future medical and therapy costs

In some instances, punitive damages might be awarded to penalize the manufacturers for their negligence on top of the compensatory damages for the victim’s expenses and suffering.

Filing an Oklahoma Firefighting Foam Cancer Lawsuit

Filing an AFFF lawsuit may seem daunting, but with the right guidance, it can be less overwhelming. Law firms handling AFFF lawsuits emphasize a comprehensive understanding of the legal processes involved in these class action cases.

The centralized AFFF litigation in South Carolina and the engagement of mediators for bellwether trials are key strategic points for law firms, as these early trials set precedents and patterns for future settlements and litigation.

Attorneys collaborate with medical professionals and expert witnesses to substantiate claims, guiding clients through drafting complaints and advising on whether to negotiate settlements or proceed to trial. But what evidence should you furnish in these lawsuits?

Types of Evidence To Present

When filing an AFFF lawsuit, the evidence presented plays a crucial role. Scientific evidence, such as studies linking AFFF exposure to specific health conditions, is fundamental in substantiating claims in AFFF litigation. The evidence-gathering phase focuses on collecting scientific data and medical records that connect AFFF exposure to health conditions.

Expert witnesses, including toxicologists and epidemiologists, are indispensable in explaining the impact of PFAS chemicals and providing statistical data on disease rates among those exposed.

These experts interpret scientific data and establish the causal link between PFAS exposure and health conditions – a key to legal success. But bear in mind that these lawsuits come with a time constraint.

Oklahoma Statute of Limitation

The clock is always ticking when it comes to legal matters, and AFFF lawsuits are no exception. Oklahoma’s statute of limitations for personal injury claims, including those arising from AFFF exposure, is typically two years from the date of injury discovery. That said, exceptions exist which can extend the statute of limitations.

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Have you or a loved one been injured or exposed to a toxic chemical at work or in the home that has caused a severe life-threatening side effect, illness, disease, or death?

Get Your Free Consultation From Oklahoma Firefighting Foam Cancer Lawyers

Schmidt & Clark, LLP stands ready to assist during these pivotal moments. Should you or a loved one suffer from injuries resulting from firefighting foam exposure, reach out without delay. Possessing a wealth of experience in such legal matters, our team pledges to steer you through each phase of your case with precision and care.

It is crucial to comprehend your legal entitlements and determine your qualification for a firefighting foam litigation. We offer complimentary consultations, and our commitment to your cause is such that we require no fees unless we secure a favorable verdict or settlement on your behalf.

Consult with Schmidt & Clark for guidance on your claim regarding firefighting foam exposure. We are here to support you through this difficult period.

Reference:

  1. https://dec.alaska.gov/spar/csp/pfas/firefighting-foam
  2. https://dceg.cancer.gov/research/what-we-study/pfas
  3. https://www.atsdr.cdc.gov/pfas/health-effects/index.html

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