Florida Firefighter Sues AFFF Manufacturers

A Florida firefighter has filed suit against a group of aqueous film-forming foam (AFFF) manufacturers contending that exposure to their products caused her breast cancer. Debbie Rittinghouse, who served with Broward County Fire Rescue from 1994 to 2018, filed suit against 17 current and former AFFF manufacturers.

Rittinghouse’s suit was filed in US District Court for the District of South Carolina, which is where all of the growing numbers of AFFF litigation suits are being routed as part of a multi-district litigation plan. Listed as defendants in the case are 3M Company, Buckeye Fire Equipment Company, Chemguard Inc., Tyco Fire Products L.P., National Foam Inc., BASF Corporation, E.I. DuPont De Nemours and Company, The Chemours Company FC LLC, Corteva Inc., Arkema Inc., Dynax Corporation, Chemdesign Products Inc., Kidde-Fenwal Inc., AGC Chemicals Americas Inc., and Clariant Inc. According to my database (and I know I am not getting every case filed) it is the 14th such AFFF case.

From the complaint:

  • Upon information and belief, the Broward Sherriff’s Office Department of Fire Rescue located in Fort Lauderdale, Florida has stored and used AFFF containing PFOA or PFOS chemicals and/or their precursor chemicals in firefighter training and response exercises.
  • Defendants’ designed, manufactured, marketed, distributed, and/or sold the AFFF containing PFOA or PFOS chemicals and/or their precursor chemicals to BSFR.
  • The descriptive labels and material safety data sheets for Defendants’ AFFF containing PFOA or PFOS and/or their precursor chemicals utilized by the BSFR firefighters did not reasonably or adequately describe the AFFF’s risks to human health.
  • The Defendants knew or should have known of the hazards of AFFF containing PFOA or PFOS and/or their precursor chemicals when the products were manufactured.
  • From 1994 until her retirement in February 2018, Plaintiff served as a firefighter at BSFR in Fort Lauderdale Florida.
  • Throughout her long career, Plaintiff conducted routine trainings using Defendants’ AFFF and fluorochemical products.
  • At no point during her trainings or career did she receive any warning that Defendants’ AFFF containing PFOA and/or PFOS and/or their precursor chemicals was toxic or carcinogenic.
  • On September 19, 2016, Plaintiff’s doctors performed a biopsy of Plaintiff’s left breast, and diagnosed a grade 3 invasive ductal carcinoma, and metastasized lymph node.
  • Plaintiff suffered, and continues to suffer, the effects of her illness proximately caused by exposure to Defendants’ fluorochemical products.

Here is a copy of the complaint:

Here is earlier coverage on one of the largest suits against the AFFF manufacturers, brought as a class action.

About Curt Varone

Curt Varone has over 45 years of fire service experience and 35 as a practicing attorney licensed in both Rhode Island and Maine. His background includes 29 years as a career firefighter in Providence (retiring as a Deputy Assistant Chief), as well as volunteer and paid on call experience. He is the author of two books: Legal Considerations for Fire and Emergency Services, (2006, 2nd ed. 2011, 3rd ed. 2014, 4th ed. 2022) and Fire Officer's Legal Handbook (2007), and is a contributing editor for Firehouse Magazine writing the Fire Law column.

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