Jane Luxton, William Walsh Quoted by Law360 in PFAS Legal Analysis Article
Washington, D.C. (February 13, 2020) - Washington, D.C. Partners Jane C. Luxton and William J. Walsh were recently quoted in a Law360 article titled "'Forever Chemical' Litigation Is Here To Stay: A Cheat Sheet,” about the growing number of lawsuits targeting chemical manufacturers with claims involving per-and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS), also known as "forever chemicals." The plaintiffs in these actions allege that PFAS cause environmental contamination and that exposure to them places individuals at a higher risk for cancer.
Litigation in this arena has resulted in several nine-figure settlements to clean up groundwater and monitor potential cancer links to PFAS. Increasingly, defendants are presenting arguments focusing on a lack of scientific consensus on the effects of PFAS.
Ms. Luxton, who is a Co-Chair of Lewis Brisbois' Environmental & Administrative Law Practice, has previously written about the legal risks associated with PFAS and has testified before the Environment and Climate Change Subcommittee of the House Committee on Energy & Commerce. She told Law360 that litigation arising from the use of PFAS is increasing.
"Even with the still-inconclusive scientific evidence, there's a widening circle of litigation because of the unknowns," she said. "This story is complicated and there are many grounds for debate. But it's a long way from over, and it looks most likely that the circle of potential targets is going to keep on increasing," she added.
Ms. Luxton also explained that PFAS, which were first used in the 1940s, have been incorporated into food packaging, water repellents, polishes, waxes, and paints. Companies that manufactured and used PFAS did not encounter legal challenges for several decades. She noted that although chemical manufacturers historically have paid large sums of money to settle claims, these companies will likely reject any allegation that there is scientific proof of a causal connection between PFAS exposure and health issues. According to Ms. Luxton, manufacturer defendants will also point out that the existence of a government safety regulation related to PFAS, alone, does not prove that the chemicals pose risks.
Mr. Walsh, who is a member of Lewis Brisbois' Environmental & Administrative Law Practice, agreed with Ms. Luxton's assessment.
"In most of these cases people are trying to get around the fact that there isn't much evidence, like epidemiological studies or rat studies, for these PFAS chemicals," he said.
You can read the full article on Law360 (subscription may be required).