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South Carolina Firefighter Foam Lawsuit: Get the Right Attorney

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C.L. Mike Schmidt Published by C.L. Mike Schmidt

South Carolina firefighters exposed to AFFF foam are seeking accountability through the South Carolina firefighter foam lawsuit. This article covers the essential details of the case: the evidence linking AFFF to cancer, the growing number of personal injury claims, and the critical developments in the lawsuit that could impact both current plaintiffs and potential future claimants.

If you or a loved one has been affected by exposure to firefighting foam, Schmidt & Clark, LLP, stands by to offer support. 

Firefighting Foam Cancer Lawsuits

AFFF lawsuits have been consolidated into a multidistrict litigation (MDL) encompassing thousands of claims. These lawsuits are mainly related to cancer and other health issues resulting from AFFF exposure. The litigation’s primary objectives are to secure financial compensation for the victims and hold the manufacturers responsible for the health risks they caused.

By February 2024, the AFFF firefighting foam MDL has shifted emphasis towards individual personal injury claims, having resolved a considerable number of municipal cases. A significant proportion of the plaintiffs are military firefighters, many of whom are seeking legal recourse for their exposure to AFFF’s toxic chemicals.

Over 6,400 AFFF lawsuits have been filed, underscoring the widespread legal action taken against manufacturers for health damages. Manufacturers of AFFF firefighting foam stand accused of being aware of these health risks yet continuing to market their products as safe, leading to the increasing number of firefighting foam lawsuit cases.

The lawsuits have seen substantial progress, with a global settlement reached for municipal cases in October 2023. As of now, the AFFF MDL awaits more developments from Bellwether trials, with over 300 additional lawsuits added to the MDL in December 2023.

Key Points from Lawsuits

As of January 2024, the AFFF MDL saw 279 new cases added, bringing the total to 6,994 pending cases. The discovery process for AFFF bellwether trials was initiated the same month, with the court-approved evidentiary collection.

The MDL now includes a Personal Injury Bellwether Discovery Pool with claims linked to AFFF exposure, marking a shift in focus towards the association between AFFF and various diseases. The first bellwether trial for the AFFF MDL will involve the City of Stuart’s groundwater contamination case against 3M, with the inclusion of the EPA’s proposed PFAS limits as evidence.

The focus is intensified on identifying the diseases most strongly associated with AFFF, using specific criteria to evaluate the strength of the fact patterns. Anticipation is high for potential settlements during the year, as expressed during the scheduled Case Management Conference for March 1, 2024.

What Is AFFF?

According to the Division of Spill Prevention and Response, AFFF is a type of firefighting foam specifically designed for Class B (flammable liquid) fires, known as aqueous film forming foam, or AFFF for short [1]. This foam contains PFAS, which are surfactants that help the foam spread across the fire to cool and suppress it.

Occupational exposure of firefighters to carcinogenic chemicals may increase their risk of developing different types of cancer – National Library of Medicine

However, these same surfactants are a significant contributor to PFAS pollution. Firefighters who frequently use AFFF in both training and actual fire incidents are at a higher risk due to their exposure to these chemicals, as numerous studies have indicated elevated levels of PFOS and other PFAS substances in their bodies.

Film-forming foam AFFF traditionally contained PFOS and PFOA, which are persistent in the environment and have documented health effects, leading to a phase-out in the U.S.

These substances are often referred to as forever chemicals. Even with PFOS and PFOA being phased out, new PFAS chemicals, which are also persistent and toxic, are replacing them in AFFF formulations.

Who Are The Defendants In AFFF Lawsuits in South Carolina?

The defendants in AFFF lawsuits in South Carolina are a collection of prominent companies, such as 3M, DuPont, Chemours, Tyco Fire Products, National Foam, Buckeye Fire Equipment, and more.

Evidence suggests that some defendants were aware of the health risks associated with PFAS in firefighting foams and yet did not take appropriate measures to mitigate these risks, leading to a foam lawsuit.

In past AFFF litigation, over twenty companies, including 3M and DuPont, among others, have been found liable for their roles in manufacturing and selling firefighting foams. These cases set a precedent for the ongoing AFFF firefighting foam lawsuits in South Carolina.

According to the National Cancer Institute, firefighting foam, especially AFFF, is laden with PFAS chemicals, known for their toxicity and persistence in the environment. These chemicals have been linked to various types of cancer and other health issues [2]. Firefighters and military personnel are at a particularly high risk due to their occupational exposure.

AFFF is used for Class B (flammable liquid) fires and contains surfactants that help spread the foam to cool and suppress the fire. However, the PFAS in AFFF is a significant source of PFAS pollution, and exposure to these chemicals puts firefighters at a higher risk of a variety of health issues, as studies have shown elevated levels of PFOS and other PFAS chemicals in firefighters.

PFAS chemicals present in firefighting foam have been associated with over a dozen cancer types, such as:

Does Firefighting Foam Contain PFAS?

As claimed by the ATSDR Organization, firefighting foam does contain PFAS. PFAS are synthetic chemicals found in many products, including AFFF firefighting foams. They are used for their resistance to water, oil, and grease, leading to concerns due to their toxicity to human health and environmental persistence [3].

AFFF firefighting foams typically contain a complex formulation that includes:

  • Hydrocarbon surfactants
  • Organic solvents
  • Fluorosurfactants
  • Polymers
  • Other additives are designed to combat flammable liquid fires efficiently.

The PFAS chemicals in AFFF can vary based on the manufacturing process, with ECF-derived formulation containing a higher proportion of PFAAs and the fluorotelomerization process generating a mix of polyfluorinated compounds in AFFF formulations.

Common Injuries Linked To Firefighting Foam PFAS

Firefighters exposed to AFFF have an increased likelihood of being diagnosed with cancer, including specific types such as kidney, testicular, and thyroid cancers, as confirmed by several studies.

Beyond cancer, AFFF exposure can cause other health problems including liver damage, immune deficiencies, skin and eye irritation, gastrointestinal issues, and neurological symptoms.

PFAS in AFFF has been linked to the following adverse health impacts:

  • Endocrine disruption, impairing hormone regulation
  • Thyroid disease
  • Fertility complications
  • Weakened immune system

The adverse health impacts associated with AFFF exposure suggest a significant risk not only for occupational cancers but also for a range of serious conditions due to the pervasive nature of PFAS contamination.

Scientific studies have demonstrated an association between PFAS in the blood serum and the development of various types of cancer, including:

  • bladder
  • breast
  • leukemia
  • liver
  • lymphoma
  • multiple myeloma
  • pancreatic
  • prostate
  • renal or kidney
  • testicular
  • thyroid disease
  • ulcerative colitis
  • uterine or endometrial cancer

Firefighters, due to their occupation of extinguishing fires, may be at an increased risk of developing cancers associated with PFAS, with military and airport firefighters identified as particularly high-risk groups.

Who Qualifies for the AFFF Lawsuit in South Carolina?

Individuals who were exposed to AFFF firefighting foam and subsequently developed cancer may qualify for the AFFF lawsuit in South Carolina. Firefighters, military personnel, chemical plant workers, and others who have been in contact with AFFF may be at risk for developing health issues. They could potentially be plaintiffs in the lawsuit.

Civilian and military firefighters, especially those who were not provided with the recommended personal protective equipment, are considered at high risk of developing complications related to AFFF and PFAS exposure.

Workers in industries where AFFF was used to fight Class B fires, such as at chemical manufacturing plants, airports, and petroleum plants, may qualify for the lawsuit due to potential exposure.

How Do AFFF Lawsuits Work?

AFFF lawsuits work on a large scale, with multidistrict litigation surpassing 9,200 lawsuits by February 2024. This increase is due in part to growing public awareness of the potential hazards associated with AFFF.

Consequently, there is an expectation that the plaintiff class will expand significantly as more individuals become aware of their eligibility to file an AFFF lawsuit.

The class certification process is a pivotal stage that examines the following factors before proceeding as a firefighting foam class action within an AFFF MDL managed by effective legal strategies for handling large-scale litigation:

  • Numerosity
  • Commonality
  • Typicality
  • Adequacy

Despite a peak in filing rates with 317 new cases in a recent 30-day period, the volume of new AFFF lawsuits has started to decrease as of January 2024, shifting the focus towards individual claims brought by firefighters and military personnel.

Firefighting Foam Cancer Lawsuits Settlement Amounts in South Carolina

If a global settlement is achieved in 2024, the average settlement payouts for victims of AFFF exposure could vary from $300,000 to $450,000.

Cancers with a strong link to AFFF and considerable exposure history may receive the highest tier of settlement payouts, with compensation covering medical expenses, emotional distress, and other damages. Settlement amounts in AFFF lawsuits are influenced by:

  • The level of exposure
  • Cancer diagnoses
  • Medical costs
  • The presence of compensatory or punitive damages, taking into account the severity and duration of health issues

A court-appointed ‘special master’ often determines the distribution of damage awards in AFFF class action lawsuits, which can be allocated proportionally or through flat-rate distribution.

Potential Compensation for Victims of Firefighting Foam Cancer Lawsuits in South Carolina

Victims of AFFF-related cancers in South Carolina may be entitled to various forms of compensation. These can include economic damages such as medical expenses, loss of income, and costs associated with long-term care or treatment.

Non-economic damages may also be awarded for pain and suffering, emotional distress, and loss of enjoyment of life. In certain cases, punitive damages may be pursued to punish the defendants for their negligence and deter similar conduct in the future.

Filing a South Carolina Firefighting Foam Cancer Lawsuit

Firefighters who have been exposed to PFAS from AFFF firefighting foam may qualify for compensation and must fulfill two key criteria to participate in the firefighting foam lawsuit.

To initiate a lawsuit, the affected firefighter must consult with a legal representative to evaluate their case and file the lawsuit, following important legal procedures such as discovery and potentially going to trial.

Types of Evidence To Present

A range of evidence types can be introduced in AFFF lawsuits to fortify the plaintiff’s case. Medical records that document the plaintiff’s diagnosis and treatment history can be crucial for establishing the connection between AFFF exposure and the resulting health issues. Additionally, records or testimonies that can verify the plaintiff’s history of exposure to AFFF can also serve as compelling evidence.

Expert testimony is another important type of evidence that often plays a crucial role in such cases. Experts in fields such as toxicology, epidemiology, and occupational health can provide insights into the toxic properties of AFFF and the health risks associated with exposure, helping to substantiate the plaintiff’s claims.

South Carolina Statute of Limitation

The statute of limitations refers to the timeframe within which a lawsuit must be filed. Potential plaintiffs must be aware of these time limits to avoid forfeiting their right to seek legal recourse.

In South Carolina, the statute of limitations for personal injury cases is generally three years from the date of the injury. However, these time limits can vary depending on the specifics of the case.

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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 South Carolina Firefighting Foam Cancer Lawyers

The team at Schmidt & Clark, LLP is on standby to provide support during these critical times. If you or someone close to you has been harmed due to exposure to firefighting foam, do not hesitate to contact us. Our skilled attorneys are experienced in managing such cases and will guide you through every stage of the process.

Understanding your legal rights and determining your eligibility for a firefighting foam lawsuit is essential. We provide free initial consultations, and our services are contingency-based, meaning you will not be charged any fees unless we achieve a successful outcome in your case.

For a thorough evaluation of your legal options regarding firefighting foam exposure, get in touch with Schmidt & Clark.

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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