Philly woman says 3M, others contaminated groundwater, leading to husband's death

By Nicholas Malfitano | Apr 18, 2019


3M  

PHILADELPHIA – A Philadelphia woman claims exposure to carcinogenic chemical agents found in local drinking water, supposedly contaminated by a number of corporate defendants including 3M, was the cause of her late husband’s death.

Hannelore Barbieri of Philadelphia filed suit in the Philadelphia County Court of Common Pleas on Aug. 8 versus 3M of St. Paul, Minn., Tyco Fire Products, LP (successor-in-interest to Ansul) and Chemguard of Marinette, Wis., Buckeye Fire Protection Company of Kings Mountain, N.C. and National Foam, Inc., of Angier, N.C.

According to the litigation, the defendants are all manufacturers of fire suppression products, including aqueous film forming foam (AFFF), which contained water-soluble toxins such as perfluoroctanoic acid (PFOA) and perfluoroctanesulfonic acid (PFOS), which have been in production use for more than 60 years.

“Defendants manufactured a product that contained toxic chemicals that contaminate the environment, yet no defendant included user warnings to protect the environment or innocent bystanders,” the suit says.

Per the lawsuit, injuries are not sudden and can arise months, years or decades after exposure to PFOA and PFOS.

AFFF was sold to the U.S. Navy, U.S. Air Force and Pennsylvania Air National Guard, who used the substance at various naval vessels and military bases, NASSJRB-Willow Grove and Naval Air Warfare Center, the lawsuit says.

During its intended use for firefighting and explosion training, the harmful and defective products were released into the environment, contaminating the soil and groundwater of the bases, migrated into the groundwater and eventually into the drinking/potable water of the plaintiff, the lawsuit claims.

“When consumed, PFOS and PFOA have been linked to numerous and serious health issues. For decades, residents near the bases and their children have been drinking and eating food prepared with water laced with dangerous chemicals, namely, PFOS and PFOA. As the manufacturers of AFFF, the defendants knew or should have known that the inclusion of toxic surfactants in AFFF presented an unreasonable risk to human health and the environment.”

Subsequent well testing by the Environmental Protection Agency pursuant to the Third Unregulated Contaminant Monitoring Rule (UCMR3) confirmed the strong presence of PFOA and PFOS in the nearby drinking water, the lawsuit claims.

Though 3M ceased production of AFFF manufactured with PFOA and PFOS in 2002, it allegedly knew of the risks it would pose to both the environment and human health.

“For years, decedent Francis C. Barbieri Jr. was exposed to and ingested PFOS and PFOA at extremely high and dangerous levels. [He] had no way to know that he was consuming water and food contaminated with PFOS and PFOA until the contamination was disclosed to him by state and federal officials. As a result of his exposure to drinking water contaminated with PFOS and PFOA, Barbieri developed and was diagnosed with prostate cancer in 2008, tongue cancer in 2010 and bladder cancer in 2016. Decedent died on Sept. 17, 2017 as a result of him consuming contaminated water.”

On April 9, attorneys for defendant National Foam, Inc. moved to remove the case to the federal level, in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania. Reasons for the transfer, according to defense counsel, were complete diversity of citizenship between the parties and the Federal Officer Removal Statute.

For counts of negligence, defective product, design defect, wrongful death, survival and loss of consortium, the plaintiff is seeking compensatory and punitive damages in an amount to be proven at trial, attorney’s fees and costs, delay damages (including an award of pre-judgment and post-judgment interest), punitive damages and other relief as the Court deems just and proper.

The plaintiff is represented by Lawrence R. Cohan and Joshua C. Cohan of Anapol Weiss in Philadelphia.

Defendant National Foam, Inc. is represented by Keith E. Smith of Greenberg Traurig, in Philadelphia.

U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania case 2:19-cv-01499

Philadelphia County Court of Common Pleas case 180800334

From the Pennsylvania Record: Reach Courts Reporter Nicholas Malfitano at nick.malfitano@therecordinc.com

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Anapol Weiss Greenberg and Traurig Philadelphia County Court of Common Pleas

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