Earlier this month, the United States District Court for the Southern District of Ohio denied motions to dismiss filed by 3M Company, DuPont, Chemours, and other chemical companies in a putative class action lawsuit relating to exposure to PFAS chemicals. Hardwick v. 3M Company, Case No. 2:18-cv-1185 (S.D. Ohio). The court held that the named plaintiff had properly alleged an injury-in-fact for purposes of Article III standing and Ohio law by claiming that he was exposed to PFAS chemicals and that PFAS have been linked to negative health outcomes, despite arguments by the chemical companies that he had not suffered an actual, compensable injury.
The complaint’s allegations are similar to other PFAS-related lawsuits from across the country. The named plaintiff alleged that he was exposed to the defendants’ PFAS chemicals in firefighting foam, and that he now faces an increased risk of disease as a result of his exposure to these chemicals. He sought injunctive relief for his alleged injury in the form of medical monitoring and the appointment of a scientific research panel.
The chemical companies sought to dismiss the lawsuit because, among other reasons, the named plaintiff had not alleged that he suffered any physical injury as a result of his exposure to PFAS, but the court rejected this argument. The court explained that the named plaintiff had sufficiently alleged an injury based on the allegations that he currently had PFAS chemicals in his body as a result of defendants’ conduct and that the PFAS chemicals increased his risk of disease. The court added that such “injury” was redressable by the plaintiff’s requested relief, i.e. medical monitoring and study.
The chemical companies had also argued that this requested injunctive relief, notably the appointment of a scientific research panel, exceeded the federal court’s equitable and constitutional powers, but here too the court disagreed. The court held that it had broad equitable powers to remedy past wrongs, and at the motion to dismiss stage, it need not make any determination as to the precise form that the relief would take should it be granted. Accordingly, the court allowed the plaintiff’s claims to move forward.