On October 26, Delaware Attorney General (AG) Kathleen Jennings filed a lawsuit against 14 chemical companies for allegedly contaminating the state’s natural resources with per- and poly-fluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) traceable to the use and disposal of aqueous film-forming foam (AFFF), a specialized firefighting foam product widely used at airports and military bases. The suit is the result of an investigation that was conducted over a two-year timeframe that involved environmental sampling, forensic analysis, and a review of corporate records.
According to the complaint, all of the defendants designed, manufactured, marketed, distributed, supplied, and/or sold PFAS-based AFFF products and/or AFFF components that contain or break down into toxic components that, when used as intended, result in significant environmental contamination and pollution with PFAS. As a result, the AFFF manufacturers are responsible for introducing PFAS into Delaware rivers, streams, groundwater, soils, and wildlife. The complaint goes on to say that safer alternatives were available at the time the defendants designed, manufactured, marketed, distributed, supplied, and/or sold the products.
The State also alleges that the defendants failed to provide adequate warnings and instructions and, had defendants been forthright about their products’ chemical properties and the environmental and human health hazards they posed, the Department of Defense (and regulatory agencies) would have taken steps to prevent, control, or minimize the environmental and human health threats from AFFF containing and/or breaking down into PFAS much sooner, or would never have used them in the first place. The complaint specifically calls out defendant 3M Company, claiming that corporate records show that it developed a sophisticated understanding of health and environmental hazards that PFAS posed no later than the 1960s. The AG claims that the remaining defendants likewise knew or, at a minimum, should have known of the dangers to human and environmental health posed by AFFF products, including through information they obtained as part of their participation in trade industry associations.
The AG request that defendants remedy their alleged misconduct in causing contamination of natural resources within the state and exposing Delaware residents to significant health risks, and seeks costs, expenses, and damages associated with the manufacturers’ misconduct.
Why It Matters
Jennings now joins the growing number of state AGs who have brought claims against chemical companies for their alleged roles in putting state residents and drinking water at risk. Continued action in this space demonstrates the emphasis that many state AGs place upon maximizing their authority to hold PFAS manufacturers financially liable for environmental contamination linked to PFAS.
Troutman Pepper State Attorneys General Team
|Ashley Taylor – Co-leader and Firm Vice Chair
Ashley is a partner in the firm’s Regulatory Investigations, Strategy + Enforcement (RISE) Practice Group and co-leader of the State Attorneys General practice. He focuses primarily on federal and state government regulatory and enforcement matters involving state attorneys general, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB), and the Federal Trade Commission (FTC). Drawing upon his experience as a deputy attorney general, Ashley has developed an extensive consumer practice with regard to the consumer financial services industry.
|Clay Friedman – Co-leader
Clay is a partner in the firm’s Regulatory Investigations, Strategy + Enforcement (RISE) Practice Group and co-leader of the State Attorneys General practice. Informed by nearly a decade in a state attorneys general office, and more than 25 years in private practice, Clay spends much of his time representing clients in singular or multistate regulatory actions. Clay has repeatedly led teams before all 50 state attorneys general and also handles matters with the Federal Trade Commission, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, and other local, state and federal agencies.
Judy is a partner in the firm’s Regulatory Investigations, Strategy and Enforcement (RISE) practice, based in the Richmond office. She brings experience serving as chair and commissioner of the Virginia State Corporate Commission (VSCC) from 2006 through 2022, which includes regulating the utilities, insurance, banking, and securities industries. She also served as Virginia’s attorney general from 2005-2006.
Stephen represents clients interacting with, and being investigated by, state attorneys general and other enforcement bodies, including the CFPB and FTC, as well as clients involved with litigation, particularly in heavily regulated industries.
A former deputy attorney general of New York, Avi applies his experience in bet-the-company matters, representing clients in criminal and civil investigations and enforcement actions before state and federal regulators, prosecutors and enforcement agencies.
Michael handles high-profile state attorneys general, FTC, and CFPB investigations by advising clients through these complex government inquiries. He assists clients through the entire life cycle of investigations, from regulatory enforcement through formal litigation.
Tim is an attorney in the firm’s Regulatory Investigations, Strategy + Enforcement (RISE) Practice Group, with a primary focus on financial services litigation.
Chris represents clients in regulatory, civil and criminal investigations and litigation. In his practice, Chris regularly employs his prior regulatory experience to benefit clients who are interacting with and being investigated by state attorneys general.
Natalia is an associate in the firm’s business litigation practice. She recently received her J.D from the University of California, Davis School of Law.
Namrata is an associate in the firm’s Regulatory Investigations, Strategy + Enforcement (RISE) Practice Group, based in the Washington, D.C. office. Her work includes advising clients in regulatory investigations and compliance matters, in addition to representing clients in civil litigation matters.
Michael is an associate in the firm’s Regulatory Investigations, Strategy, and Enforcement Practice Group. Based out of the firm’s Boston office, Mike has deep experience in litigation, investigations, and other regulatory matters involving state-level regulators and state attorneys general.
Susan is an associate in the firm’s Consumer Financial Services Practice Group, and focuses her practice on consumer financial services matters. She has defended several of the nation’s largest and most influential financial institutions in individual and class action litigation involving the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA), Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA), Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA), and other consumer privacy statutes. Susan also represents banks, fintechs, and financial services companies in connection with regulatory examinations and investigations brought by the CFPB, state attorneys general, and the California Department of Financial Protection and Innovation.
John represents clients in a wide variety of general and complex litigation matters, shareholder disputes, products liability, and privacy claims.
Whitney is an attorney in the firm’s Regulatory Investigations, Strategy + Enforcement (RISE) Practice Group. She represents clients facing state and federal regulatory investigations and enforcement actions, as well as related civil litigation.
Trey is an associate in the firm’s Regulatory Investigations, Strategy + Enforcement practice. His experience includes serving as a summer associate at the firm in 2021.
An experienced litigator, Daniel advises and represents regional, national and international companies, financial institutions and insurers in all facets of business, complex commercial and insurance coverage litigation. He is committed to working with his clients to find creative solutions to meet their needs.
Stephanie is Troutman Pepper’s senior government relations manager in the state attorneys general department.