Jayne Conroy talks on PFAS cases involving firefighting gear, not foam
By Christina Grube, MTN Correspondent
(MASS TORT NEWS) The International Association of Firefighters (IAFF) announced their retention of three law firms for litigation regarding the presence of PFAS in firefighter gear, leading many to wonder if another PFAS tort could be on the horizon.
General President Edward Kelly announced in late January that law firms Motley Rice LLC, Simmons Hanly Conroy LLC, and Sullivan Papain Block McGrath Coffinas & Cannavo P.C have agreed to represent IAFF members and their families seeking justice for PFAS-linked illnesses, collectively referred to the trio as “PFAS Law Firms.”
The first PFAS-related mass tort received consolidation in 2018 and related the military’s overuse of a fire-fighting foam high in the “forever” chemicals. Plaintiffs consisted of cities and municipalities with PFAS contaminated water caused by run-off from the military’s excessive use of the foam.
Simmons Hanly Partner Jayne Conroy explains that IAFF’s cases remain separate from the South Carolina based MDL due to the differing means of contamination.
“Actual gear that firemen wear–the overalls and the big jacket and the helmet–all have staggering amounts of PFAS in it,” Conroy told MTN. “It’s a different exposure, and a different exposure number than you’d get from water or from using foam in a training situation.”
Conroy notes that instead of chemical manufacturers (Dupont, 3M, etc.), PFAS gear cases will involve textile companies and fire gear manufacturers. “For years they [various gear manufacturers] told the firemen that there were either no PFAS in the gear or just trace amounts, which is completely false,” Conroy said.
President Kelly announced that with the retention of the PFAS Firms, the IAFF continued searching for PFAS-free equipment. “We need to combat what is killing us,” Kelly said in a press release. “Cancer is the number one killer of firefighters, and for years, corporate interests have put profits over our lives. It stops now.”
Conroy confirmed that Simmons Hanly has begun interviewing firehouses across the country and gathering data. She told MTN that their initial research seems to suggest an “absolutely staggering” correlation between PFAS gear and testicular cancer, thyroid cancer, kidney cancer, and bladder cancer.
Conroy agreed that the cases have great potential for MDL consolidation, but insisted it’s too early to tell the best route for plaintiff’s to take.
“We may or may not seek an MDL,” she said. “It’s hard to know yet.”