Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel joins a group of government officials to hire private law firms to pursue PFAS suits on a contingent basis, and Michigan becomes just the second state to extend the PFAS lawsuit statute of limitations. Per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances, more commonly referred to be their acronym, PFAS, are a collection of thousands of manmade chemical compounds that are widely used in countless consumer products, such as firefighting foam, clothing, and non-stick cookware.
Although exposure pathways are still being studied, the most direct exposure source to PFAS is through water. People can also be exposed through the use of PFAS-containing products. Due to their high mobility in the environment, their widespread use, and their ability to bioaccumulate in humans, PFAS compounds are likely present in the blood of most Americans. There is evidence suggesting that high doses of PFAS can cause a number of human health impacts, such as testicular cancer, kidney cancer, thyroid disease, and ulcerative colitis. However, the dose required to cause disease is still the subject of much debate and there is no enforceable federal maximum contaminant level.
Legislators in Michigan have proposed a new regulation that would lengthen the statute of limitations to bring PFAS claims to six years after remediation starts. The legislators also proposed another bill that would trigger the statute of limitations for bringing PFAS suits on the date it was known or should have been known that a PFAS release occurred, rather than the existing triggering event, which is when the PFAS was actually released. The legislators are trying to give parties allegedly impacted by the effects of PFAS exposure a fair shot at bringing claims by expanding the timeframe within which the claims can be filed.
PFAS litigation is unique from historic pollution claims that are traditionally based on allegations that companies disposed of a chemical illegally. In PFAS cases, plaintiffs are claiming that, while PFAS was legally sold, the companies knew that the compounds were toxic and the potential for contamination in groundwater. Therefore, although PFAS cases may seem similar to previous types of pollution claims on its face, there will be a number of claims and defenses unique to PFAS.