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April 22, 2021 — On April 7, 2021, Alaska’s Attorney general filed a lawsuit against over thirty companies seeking damages for pollution due to PFAs. The specific pollution in the suit is only linked to two of the thousands of different PFAs, perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) and perfluorooctane sulfonate (PFOS), but the damages are likely to be in the hundreds of millions. The results of the lawsuit will be greatly anticipated by both states who are also wanting to sue for PFA damage and companies that have either made PFAs or used them during other manufacturing.  

The Alaska lawsuit is against three types of companies:  (1) PFAS manufacturers; (2) PFAS distributors and (3) aqueous film-forming foam (AFFF) manufacturers and suppliers. Several theories of liability are alleged, including negligence, nuisance, trespass, and products liability. The damages sought include costs associated with Alaska’s past, present, and future efforts to end PFOA and PFOS pollution. The future costs would include investigative costs to determine the scale of the pollution, remediation costs, proper disposal of PFAS-contaminated water and solids, and monitoring for future pollution. The state seeks triple the damages under its state statutes in addition to the punitive damages that would punish the behavior of the companies.  The remediation by itself could result in hundreds of millions of dollars, but if Alaska could receive punitive damages or triple damages, the amount could go over a billion dollars.

While the Alaska lawsuit targets PFAS manufacturers and AFFF manufacturers, other companies should not underestimate the power of the lawsuit to impact them as well. Such companies in other states have been directly named as defendants in lawsuits seeking billions of dollars in PFAS remediation costs. Companies should not ignore the dangerous environmental issues that PFAS poses as a number of different entities, from states to private citizens, are actively seeking damages. It is in the best interest of all if companies of all types started conducting a complete compliance audit to best understand areas of concern for PFAS liability issues.

Reference: “Alaska PFAS Lawsuit Latest State Action On PFAS.” The National Law Review, www.natlawreview.com/article/alaska-pfas-lawsuit-latest-state-action-pfas

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Gayle Gerling Pettinga

Born and raised in Evansville, Gayle is a respected, experienced lawyer and a valued community leader. She graduated near the top of her class at Indiana University’s prestigious Maurer School of Law. She’s practiced law with one of the largest firms in Indianapolis as well as one of the largest pharmaceutical companies in the world. And that means she knows how big law firms and big companies think and how they operate – and she will put that knowledge to work for you.

Gayle has received numerous awards and honors including Martindale-Hubbell — Peer Review Rated: AV®, American Institute of Personal Injury Attorneys 10 Best Attorneys in Indiana for Exceptional and Outstanding Client Service, and YWCA Evansville 100 Years, 100 Women Honoree, 2011.

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