PFAS Lawsuit Continues Trend of Downstream Liability Risks

Sep 2, 2022 | Environmental, PFAS, Toxic Tort

On August 12, 2022, a cattle farmer in Livingston County, Michigan filed a PFAS lawsuit against a manufacturing company that allegedly contaminated the farmer’s land with PFAS, which in turn contaminated the cattle that he relied on to sell for beef. Plaintiff Jason Grostic is suing Tribar Manufacturing for millions of dollars in land, soil, and water contamination remediation costs, as well as damages to compensate him for loss of revenue from his cattle business. The lawsuit, while local to the state of Michigan, is a stark reminder of a message that we have reiterated for years – that downstream commerce users of PFAS are susceptible to involvement in PFAS litigation and that companies with any current or legacy use of PFAS must conduct full risk assessment and risk management protocols to fully understand the scope of risk.

PFAS Lawsuit: Grostic v. Tribar Manufacturing

On January 28, 2022, the state of Michigan issued a consumption advisory for consumers that purchased or consumed beef sourced from John Grostic’s farm. While no standards for PFAS in beef exist either federally or in Michigan, the state nevertheless issued the consumption advisory to alert consumers that PFOS was detected in beef sold by Grostic Farm. On August 12, 2022, Grostic filed a lawsuit against automotive supplier Tribar Manufacturing alleging that the company’s PFAS discharges polluted Grostic Farm. The lawsuit is seeking tens of millions of dollars in damages, including punitive damages, for remediation costs, loss of business revenue, and emotional distress.

It is alleged that Tribar used PFOS as a fume suppressant as part of its business practices, and that discharges of the PFOS contaminated wastewater in the area. Biosolid sludge from the wastewater was also allegedly contaminated with PFOS, and the biosolid sludge was subsequently used on Grostic’s farm as a fertilizer. Over time, it is alleged, the PFOS from the biosludge entered the farm’s soil and groundwater, and polluted cattle grain feed, which was grown on site.

Downstream Business Implications

The Grostic lawsuit is a perfect example of downstream users of PFAS being increasingly targeted in lawsuits involving claims of environmental pollution due to PFAS. It is of the utmost importance that businesses along the whole supply chain evaluate their PFAS risk. Public health and environmental groups urge legislators to regulate these compounds at an ever-increasing pace. Similarly, state level EPA enforcement action is increasing at a several-fold rate every year. Companies that did not manufacture PFAS, but merely utilized PFAS in their manufacturing processes, are therefore becoming targets of costly enforcement actions at rates that continue to multiply year over year. Lawsuits are also filed monthly by citizens or municipalities against companies that are increasingly not PFAS chemical manufacturers.

Conducting regular self-audits for possible exposure to PFAS risk and potential regulatory violations can result in long term savings for companies and should be commonplace in their own risk assessment.

CMBG3 Law is following judicial, legislative, administrative, and scientific developments relating to PFAS. More information about the services we can provide, including risk assessments, to ensure your business is ready for any intersection with these substances can be found on our PFAS Litigation page.

Our attorneys have been at the forefront of PFAS issues, including giving presentations as to the future waves of litigation stemming from PFAS issues. For more information, please contact the Chair of our PFAS – Toxic Torts Team: John Gardella.

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