Massachusetts Firefighters With Cancer Sue AFFF and PPE Manufacturers

Fifteen current and former Massachusetts firefighters who have been diagnosed with cancer have filed suit against 25 defendants alleging they were exposed to perfluoroalkyl and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) through their exposure to aqueous film forming foam (AFFF) and to PFAS in their turnout gear. The firefighters are from five fire departments, Boston, Brockton, Fall River, Norwood, and Worcester.

William Bernhard, Paul Berube, Michael Carr, Michael Clark, Paul Cotter, David Ford, Kevin Hartigan, Onslow James, Stephen Lydon, Joseph Marchetti, Michael O’Reagan, Robert Pastor, Daniel Ranahan, Jessica Ranahan (spouse), Mark Whalen, and Stephen Wilder filed suit in US District Court for the District of Massachusetts against 25 defendants: 3M Company; AGC Chemicals America, Inc.; Amerex Corporation; Archroma U.S., Inc.; Arkema, inc.; Buckeye Fire Equipment; Carrier Global Corporation; Chemguard, Inc.; Dynax Corporation; E.I. Du Pont De Nemours & Co.; Fire-Dex, LLC; Fire Service Plus, Inc.; Globe Manufacturing Company LLC; Honeywell Safety Products USA, INC.; Johnson Controls, Inc.; Lion Group, Inc.; Mine Safety Appliance Company LLC; National Foam, Inc.; PBI Performance Products, Inc.; Perimeter Solutions, LP; Stedfast USA, Inc.; Tencate Protective Fabrics USA d/b/a Southern Mills, Inc.; The Chemours Company LLC.; Tyco Fire Products, LP; W.L. Gore & Associates, Inc.

All fifteen of the firefighter-plaintiffs have or have had some form cancer, including prostate cancer, malignant melanoma, non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, and Hodgkin’s lymphoma. Thirteen of the 15 have or have had prostate cancer, and most of the firefighter-plaintiffs had elevated levels of PFAS in their blood when tested in December, 2021.

Quoting from the complaint:

  • PFAS have been associated with multiple and serious adverse health effects in humans including cancer, tumors, liver damage, immune system and endocrine disorders, high cholesterol, thyroid disease, ulcerative colitis, birth defects, decreased fertility, and pregnancy induced hypertension.
  • PFAS have also been found to concentrate in human blood, bones and organs and, most recently, to reduce the effectiveness of vaccines, a significant concern in light of COVID-19.
  • Unbeknownst to Plaintiffs, Defendants have manufactured, marketed, distributed, sold, or used PFAS and PFAS-containing materials in protective clothing specifically designed for firefighters (“turnouts”) and in Class B firefighting foams (“Class B foam”).
  • For decades, Defendants were aware of the toxic nature of PFAS and the harmful impact these substances have on human health.
  • Yet, Defendants manufactured, designed, marketed, sold, supplied, or distributed PFAS and PFAS chemical feedstock, as well PFAS containing turnouts and Class B foam, to firefighting training facilities and fire departments nationally, including in Massachusetts and in the Worcester, Norwood, Brockton, Fall River and Boston fire departments.
  • Defendants did so, moreover, without ever informing firefighters or the public that turnouts and Class B foams contained PFAS, and without warning firefighters or the public of the substantial and serious health injuries that can result from exposure to PFAS or PFAS-containing materials.
  • The Firefighter Plaintiffs wore turnouts and used and/or were exposed to Class B foam in the usual and normal course of performing their firefighting duties and training and were repeatedly exposed to PFAS in their workplace.
  • They did not know and, in the exercise of reasonable diligence, could not have known that these products contained PFAS or PFAS containing materials.
  • They also did not know that PFAS was in their bodies and blood.
  • At all relevant times and continuing to the present, Defendants have represented that their turnouts and Class B foams are safe.
  • The Firefighter Plaintiffs did not learn of their PFAS exposure until December 2021, at the earliest, when blood serum tests revealed that they had significantly elevated levels of PFAS in their blood.
  • The Firefighter Plaintiffs used the turnouts and Class B foam as they were intended and in a foreseeable manner which exposed them to PFAS in the course of their firefighting activities.
  • This repeated and extensive exposure to PFAS resulted in cancers and other serious and life-threatening diseases to the Firefighter Plaintiffs.
  • Their PFAS exposures continue to pose a significant threat to their personal health due to PFAS’ persistence, pervasiveness, toxicity and bioaccumulation.

The suit alleges breach of the implied warranty of merchantability – design defect; breach of the implied warranty of merchantability – failure to warn; negligence; unfair and deceptive trade practices; and the spouse of one of the firefighters brings a claim for loss of consortium.

Here is a copy of the complaint:

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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