PFAS Lawsuits Centered in Georgia Have National Implications

Dalton, a city in northern Georgia produces almost 90% of the world’s carpet. To make carpets stain-resistant and fire-retardant, carpet manufacturers use PFAS chemicals, which are often referred to as “forever chemicals” because many of these synthetic compounds do not degrade in the environment and accumulate in human tissues.

In June, National Law Review reported on PFAS lawsuits in Georgia stemming from PFAS contamination in drinking water. Last week, a federal judge in Georgia issued a ruling on one of the cases that could affect PFAS litigation throughout the nation. The judge tossed many claims against PFAS manufacturers and distributors but allowed claims to proceed against water authorities and carpet manufacturers.

PFAS litigation in Georgia has centered around pollution of drinking water sources caused by the outflowing of water released by carpet manufacturing facilities.

The Georgia federal judge who ruled on Jarrod Johnson v. 3M, which pitted citizens of the city of Rome, GA against PFAS manufacturers including 3M and DuPont, allowed Clean Water Act claims to stand. However, many claims against PFAS suppliers were dismissed.

The judge ruled that the PFAS manufacturers were not the direct cause of water pollution. 3M and DuPont have paid billions to resolve PFAS lawsuits and for environmental remediation. In dismissing many claims against PFAS makers, the judge ruled that product manufacturers that use PFAS chemicals carry more of the legal liability.

In Georgia PFAS litigation, water utility companies and the carpet manufacturers that dumped PFAS chemicals in waterways in the Dalton area and downstream may ultimately be ordered to pay economic damages rather than the makers and distributors of PFAS chemicals.

Considering this ruling and the fact that state-level Environmental Protection Agencies are enforcing PFAS regulations more diligently, there could be an increase in litigation against companies who use PFAS chemicals in their products rather than those that create the “forever chemicals” in the first place.