Wolverine Worldwide, 3 million to pay $54 million in PFAS class settlement

Lansing, Michigan – Wolverine Worldwide and 3M will pay $54 million to Michigan property owners affected by PFAS pollution under a proposed settlement in a class action lawsuit filed following the discovery of the pollution five years ago.

If a judge agrees, the money will be split across the nearly 1,700 homes in northern Kent where Wolverine once dumped PFAS-laden tanneries waste sludge, according to a settlement agreement filed September 15 in US District Court in Lansing.

The settlement will resolve nearly all tort claims arising from the 2017 discovery of severe PFAS contamination in the Rockford and Belmont area — a key moment in the ongoing investigation of Michigan’s “Forever Chemicals.”

The case centered around property claims, such as loss of value, personal injury exclusion and medical guidance claims often part of pollution claims.

It also excludes about 275 individual plaintiffs who filed a separate lawsuit against Wolverine and 3M in Kent County Court. All of these cases were settled last winter.

“I think it’s an excellent recovery for this class,” said Esther Berezovsky of Motley Rice in New Jersey, who was lead attorney in the case.

“We are asking the court to approve this settlement because we believe it will bring closure and real compensation to the people who have been affected,” Berezovsky said.

To be eligible for settlement damages, a person must own property as of November 1, 2017 that has used well water in what state regulators know as the North Kent Study District – an area roughly 25 square miles of the towns of Plainfield, Algoma and the city of Rockford with some One of the highest levels of PFAS ever found in private wells.

Compensation amounts will depend on factors such as the severity of the contamination at each property, the number of people affected on each property, whether the home has received a Wolverine water filtration system and whether the property is able to connect to the ongoing Plainfield Municipal Water Extension Project.

The bulk, about $11 million, is reserved for 111 properties with PFAS discoveries on state drinking water standards up to 500 parts per trillion (ppt), according to court documents. About $285,000 was allocated to a single property with a PFAS detection above 500-ppt. Properties in the study area with minimal detection will receive lower amounts.

Notices will be mailed to eligible properties if the deal is approved by US District Judge Hala Jerbo, who began presiding over the case in September 2020.

The class action case dates back to December 2017, when Beverly Zimmerman of Belmont and seven others sued Wolverine and 3M for damages in federal court.

The issue arose amid growing public concern about PFAS in North Kent County groundwater three months after MLive revealed that severe contamination had been found in private drinking water wells around 1960s-era Wolverine tanneries on House Street in Belmont.

The chemicals began seeping through local groundwater after Wolverine began treating Hush Puppies brand shoe leather in 1958 with 3M Scotchgard, a waterproofing agent made from PFAS chemicals, dumping manufacturing waste from Rockford tannery into unlined trenches in House Street and other dump sites around the area.

The class action was followed by several local meetings, the formation of the Michigan PFAS Task Force (MPART), and marked by the appearance of environmental activist and legal counsel Erin Brockovich, speaking at a meeting in Comstock Park organized by lawyers from one of the many firms that ended up working on the case. .

In late 2019, the case was combined with two other subsequent federal actions, which together survived 3M’s attempt to include them all in a massive slice of the ongoing lawsuits against Minnesota related to manufacturing AFFF firefighting foam.

In June 2021, Judge Jerbo allowed property damage claims to proceed in the case, but dismissed the negligence claims against 3M and Wolverine that were related to personal injury, writing in agreement with the companies that insufficient evidence of injury had been established due to exposure to PFAS and the “increased risk” To have serious illness caused by PFAS contamination “is not an injury recognizable under Michigan law.”

In a statement, Wolverine said she and 3M “are delighted to have settled this lawsuit, and we believe this settlement represents another important step toward resolving this matter and doing the right thing for our community.”

3M directed inquiries to an online statement saying that the company “remains committed to working collaboratively with communities and sharing our scientific knowledge about PFAS to achieve our shared goals.”

Berezovsky, who also helped the residents of Flint win a $626 million settlement with the state of Michigan over a major drinking water crisis, described Wolverine’s case as “hard-earned.”

“This matter has been litigated very actively for a long time,” she said. The case involved “a lot of motor training, a lot of experts on both sides. It’s a very complicated case.”

She said settlement negotiations had been “extremely protracted”.

If Judge Gerbo agrees, the settlement would end most lawsuits against Wolverine over PFAS contamination in Kent County.

In late April, nearly 275 individual lawsuits filed in Kent County’s 17th Circuit Court by residents represented by Farnum Law Firm in Grand Rapids were quietly dismissed by Judge George J. Quest after confidential settlement agreements.

Farnum’s attorneys will not comment on the settlements, which are subject to nondisclosure clauses. Payments and other settlement details in those cases are unknown.

Among the plaintiffs in the Farnum cases is Sandy Wynne-Stelt, a Belmont psychologist who became a national activist for PFAS after the contamination discovery and the death of her husband, Joel, who died of liver cancer in 2016 after years of drinking contaminated water.

According to a federal securities filing in April, 3M and Wolverine were able to achieve dismissal of two of five individual Varnum cases selected for trial in 2021 and settling the other cases for an “immaterial amount” last October.

Wolverine is still in a lawsuit with several insurance companies and owners of Boulder Creek Golf Club in Belmont, which sued the company in 2018 claiming it hid the PFAS risk when Wolverine used the property, then a total mine named Northeast Gravel, as a landfill in the 1970s.

According to May’s filing in Wolverine’s federal insurance case, the company has spent more than $105 million to date defending itself in the Varnum cases, the class action, the Boulder Creek case, and a case brought by the state of Michigan that has resulted in $69.5 million. Colony. These funds have helped fund major extensions to Plainfield’s municipal running water. 3M put $55 million into that deal.

Wolverine spent $73.9 million on “environmental and other related costs” in 2021, including settlement receivables, according to its annual report. The company recorded revenues of $2.4 billion last year.

3M is still a party to thousands of lawsuits from across the country related to PFAS exposure.

On the cleanup side, Wolverine is preparing to build a cover over the buried waste in its former landfill. The company has yet to begin treating groundwater contaminated with PFAS at its former tanneries along the River Rouge in Rockford.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and Michigan’s Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy (EGLE) are evaluating dump sites and tanneries for inclusion on the federal Superfund List, a list of the country’s most polluted sites.

This evaluation showed previously undetected PFAS contamination this year at the old Wolverine shoe sole manufacturing plant near the White Pine Trail in Rockford.

Related stories:

The Environmental Protection Agency lists PFAS chemicals as hazardous

Years after the science came out, PFAS was found in a Wolverine factory

Wolverine PFAS Sites Eye Superfund List

300 homes connected to Plainfield water

Rogue River has become the focus of Wolverine cleaning

Lawyer claiming cancer fought PFAS contamination

Wolverine ‘phyto’ dump cleaning plan was well received

HBO’s John Oliver highlights Michigan PFAS victims

3M, Wolverine settle PFAS lawsuit with Michigan family

Chronology: The Wolverine Disaster, 3M PFAS

A PFAS activist in Michigan says blood tests saved her life

Cancer, Plague Diseases, Wolverine Dump Neighbors

#Wolverine #Worldwide #million #pay #million #PFAS #class #settlement

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published.