DuPont Avoids PFAS Lawsuit in New York

A federal judge in New York has dismissed a lawsuit by Suez Water New York, a water management company alleging that DuPont and its subsequent spinoffs are responsible for contaminating New York’s water supply with perfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS).

U.S. District Judge Lewis J. Liman dismissed the claims of Suez Water New York, calling their allegations general and sparse. Suez filed the lawsuits against DuPont, referred to in the lawsuit as “Old DuPont” as well as the “New DuPont” and its subsidiaries: Chemours and Corteva.

New DuPont and its subsidiaries were created after Old DuPont was restructured. Suez’s lawsuit alleges that the four companies had polluted New York’s water with PFAS for decades, and therefore Suez was owed the costs for upgrades to its five water treatment plants.

Suez claimed that New DuPont, Corteva, and Chemours were liable under the principle of successor jurisdiction, a legal concept that argues that companies that are created from an earlier company are still liable for all of the previous company’s liabilities. Suez Water New York argues that since Old DuPont was succeeded by New DuPont, Chemours, and Corteva, then those three successor companies are liable as well.

Judge Liman disagreed with that rationale, stating, “Because the limited circumstances where it is appropriate to recognize successor jurisdiction are not present in this case, the Court concludes that Corteva and New DuPont did not inherit Old DuPont’s jurisdictional status.”

Despite disagreeing with their jurisdictional arguments, Judge Liman did begrudgingly concede that the four companies named in the lawsuit did “barely” have enough presence to be sued in New York. Suez Water New York is claiming that the four companies have violated public nuisance law, private nuisance laws, and behaved negligently.

Despite the fact that New DuPont has escaped the claims of Suez Water New York in the Empire State, a different federal judge, U.S. District Judge Madeline Cox Arleo, allowed Suez’s claims to move past the dismissal stage. Judge Arleo dismissed the arguments of Corteva and New DuPont that Chemours was the only entity responsible for PFAS claims after the restructuring and has therefore ordered that jurisdictional discovery begin in order to settle the issue.

Since Suez’s New York case was dismissed without prejudice, Suez can attempt to file the lawsuit against DuPont and its spinoffs again with a more legally sound case that addresses Judge Liman’s claims of generality, sparseness, and insufficient jurisdiction.

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