NJ Fire Departments Sued Over Use of AFFF At Fire Scene

The owner of a business that burned in Carteret, New Jersey in 2020 has filed suit against ten fire departments, a county fire marshal, the state, and National Foam, alleging each is liable for the cleanup costs associated with the use of aqueous film forming foam (AFFF). Insurance Auto Auctions, Inc. filed suit in Middlesex County Superior Court several weeks ago. National Foam had the case removed to federal court.

Besides National Foam, the suit names the Carteret Fire Department, Hopelawn Fire Department, Iselin Fire Department #9, Iselin Fire Department #11, Perth Amboy Fire Department, Port Reading Fire Department, South Amboy Fire Department, Sayreville Fire Department, Fords Fire Department, Metuchen Fire Department, Middlesex County Fire Marshal, Middlesex County and the state of New Jersey as defendants.

Quoting from the complaint:

  • This litigation arises out of a fire on premises located at 700 Federal Boulevard, Borough of Carteret, County of Middlesex, State of New Jersey on or about March 26, 2020.
  • On or about March 26, 2020, Defendants Carteret Fire Department, Iselin Fire Department # 9, Iselin Fire Department # 11, Perth Amboy Fire Department, Port Reading Fire Department, South Amboy Fire Department, Sayreville Fire Department, Fords Fire Department, Metuchen Fire Department and Middlesex County Fire Marshall responded to the fire at the Federal Boulevard Site.
  • Some or all of the Fire Department Defendants applied aqueous film forming foam to the ground at the Federal Boulevard Site on or about March 26, 2020.
  • The AFFF utilized by some and/or all of the of the Fire Department Defendants at the Federal Boulevard Site on or about March 26, 2020 was Universal Gold AFFF.
  • Some and/or all of the Fire Department Defendants applied Universal Gold AFFF, a product containing perfluorooctane sulfonic acid (hereinafter “PFOS”) and/or perfluorooctanoic acid (hereinafter “PFOA”) and/or their precursors at the Federal Boulevard Site on or about March 26, 2020.
  • All of the Fire Department Defendants knew and/or should have known that Universal Gold AFFF was hazardous to the environment and caused environmental contamination.
  • Prior to the fire, Defendant State of New Jersey authorized, supplied and/or instructed the Fire Department Defendants to use Universal Gold AFFF.
  • As a result of the Defendants’ use, manufacture, sale, marketing, design and/or distribution of Universal Gold AFFF, Plaintiff has and/or will incur damages including but not limited to the cost of environmental response and remediation of the Federal Boulevard Site.

The complaint alleges strict product liability – defective product, strict product liability – failure to warn, common law negligence, three counts of liability under the New Jersey Spill Act, two counts of palpably unreasonable conduct, private nuisance, and trespass.

Here is a copy of the complaint:

About Curt Varone

Curt Varone has over 40 years of fire service experience and 30 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) and Fire Officer's Legal Handbook (2007), and is a contributing editor for Firehouse Magazine writing the Fire Law column.
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