Groundwater Contamination Case Narrowed by Federal Judge

A Delaware judge issued a decision Thursday in a case concerning groundwater contamination in Blades, Delaware; the judge narrowed the case by partially granting the defendant chemical companies’ motions to dismiss certain claims.

A group of plaintiffs originally filed a class action suit against defendants E.I. Du Pont De Nemours and Company, the 3M Company, Atotech USA, LLC, Macdermid, Inc., Procino Plating, Inc., and Blades Development LLC alleging that they were responsible for the chemical contamination of the groundwater in Blades, Delaware.

The class action alleged that the defendants were responsible for the groundwater in Blades, Delaware to become infested with perfluorinated compounds (PFCs). Specifically, defendants Procino and Blades purchased perfluorinated compounds containing perfluorooctane sulfonate (PFOS) and perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) from defendants Atotech and Macdermid. The PFOS and PFOA used to produce the perfluorinated compounds was allegedly sold to defendants Atotech and Macdermid by defendants DuPont and 3M.

The chemicals used by the defendants are frequently used in the production of commercial and consumer nonstick cookware, the complaint says; since both PFOS and PFOA are extremely stable chemicals that can remain in an environment for years, people can experience the associated negative health effects years after exposure. Further, the chemicals can seep into surrounding areas and contaminate both groundwater and drinking water supplies.

The plaintiffs are all residents of Blades and assert in the complaint that they have been “exposed to elevated levels of PFCs and they have bioaccumulated in [Plaintiffs’] blood.”

The complaint cited eight counts, including negligence, medical monitoring, breach of implied warranty, trespass, private nuisance, fraudulent concealment, and conspiracy. With the exception of defendant Procino, each of the other defendants filed individual motions to dismiss the suit for failure to state a claim.

In order to determine that a claim has been adequately stated, the court must conclude that the complaint contains “factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged.”

The defendant’s motions were denied-in-part and granted-in-part. While the plaintiffs’ negligence, trespass, and private nuisance claims were deemed plausible by the court, the remainder were dismissed. The medical monitoring and conspiracy claims were dismissed for failure to state a claim. The motions to dismiss also argued that the plaintiff’s breach of implied warranty claim was barred by the statute of limitations, which the Judge confirmed. Lastly, the fraudulent concealment claim was dismissed since the complaint failed to allege the claim with sufficient particularity.

Judge Hall granted the plaintiffs 21 days to amend their complaint and address its deficiencies.

The plaintiffs are represented in the litigation by Napoli Shkolnik PLLC. The defendants are represented by McCarter & English, Mayer Brown, Richards, Layton & Finger, Doroshow, Pasquale, Krawitz & Bhaya, Reilly, Janiczek, McDevitt, Henrich & Cholden, Ashby & Geddes, and Cozen O’Connor.