California Attorney General’s Office Files PFAS Lawsuit

November 21, 2022 Articles

The California Attorney General’s Office has turned its focus to PFAS, filing litigation that is likely to be one of the larger of the hundreds of PFAS-related lawsuits currently pending throughout the country. On November 10, 2022, the California Attorney General’s Office filed a lawsuit against 3M and 17 other companies for their alleged roles in manufacturing, distributing, marketing and/or selling per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS), including PFOA and PFOS, among other perfluorinated chemicals[1]. In a tweet, Attorney General Rob Bonta announced the lawsuit and added that “[w]ithout drastic action, we’ll be dealing with the damage wrought by PFAS for generations. We won’t let its manufacturers off the hook.”

The complaint alleges six causes of action against all defendants: (1) public nuisance, (2) equitable relief, (3) strict products liability: failure to warn, (4) strict products liability: defective and ultra-hazardous product, (5) unlawful business practices, and (6) negligence per se, as well as a seventh cause of action for fraudulent transfer as to only one defendant.

The complaint claims that defendants “knew or should have known that PFAS were toxic and harmful to human health and the environment, yet they continued to produce PFAS and/or products containing PFAS.” Compl. at ¶ 3.

Specifically, the complaint claims that defendants used PFAS in a wide array of products, including food packaging, nonstick products, water-repellent fabrics and carpets, surfactants, beauty products and others. Id. at ¶ 77. The California Attorney General’s office alleges in the complaint that the manufacture, use and disposal of such products resulted in the release of PFAS to the environment. Id. at ¶¶ 78, 80.

The complaint seeks broad relief, including creation of an abatement fund for use to investigate and remediate PFAS contamination in California, equitable relief to abate the PFAS contamination, compensatory damages to fund remediation, natural resource damages, and recovery of attorneys’ fees, expert fees, and costs associated with investigating and prosecuting the public nuisance cause of action.

[1] PFAS are defined in the complaint as: perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA); perfluorooctanesulfonic acid (PFOS); perfluorobutanesulfonic acid (PFBS); perfluorohexanesulfonic acid (PFHxS); perfluorohexanoic acid (PFHxA); perfluoroheptanoic acid (PFHpA); and perfluorononanoic acid (PFNA).