Health Care, Law, and Manufacturing

Law firms submit class action lawsuit against Wolverine Worldwide

December 5, 2017
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A national team of law firms announced today a class action lawsuit against Wolverine Worldwide, 3M Corporation and Waste Management, Inc. over the alleged dumping of "toxic waste and polluting" groundwater in Belmont, Rockford and other areas in Kent County.

The class action suit was filed by The Miller Law Firm in Rochester, Robbins Geller Rudman & Dowd and Weitz & Luxenberg, which has a Detroit office.

The firms said the environmental class action suit filed against the companies seeks immediate blood testing, monitoring and damages for residents who have been “harmed by the pollution.”

The complaint filed by the firms alleges that Rockford-based Wolverine Worldwide, a maker of footwear and apparel, dumped waste containing per- and poly-fluoroalkyl substances, known as PFAS, from 3M’s Scotchgard product at “more than 75 sites in Kent County.”

The firms said Waste Management allegedly participated by “transporting, dumping and maintaining” contaminated materials throughout the area.

The lawsuit alleges that Wolverine and 3M were “aware of Scotchgard’s dangers to human health for decades but covered up the truth until unrelated groundwater testing revealed the contamination in the summer and fall of 2017."

Wolverine Worldwide supplied the following statement to the Business Journal:

“Wolverine does not comment on ongoing or potential litigation.”

Waste Management, Inc. provided the following response to the Business Journal:

"Waste Management is aware of the class action lawsuit being filed and will respond accordingly via the court system,” said Tanisha Sanders, director of government affairs and communications, Waste Management, Inc.

3M Corporation offered the following response to the Business Journal:

“Under Michigan law, we believe 3M has no liability for any damages allegedly caused by Wolverine’s manufacturing and waste disposal practices,” said William A. Brewer III, a partner at Brewer, Attorneys & Counselors and counsel for 3M. “3M never manufactured or disposed of PFC-containing materials in Michigan. We believe this lawsuit lacks merit.”

Brewer added, “3M advised Wolverine regarding the presence of PFOS in products sold by 3M before, during and after the period of 3M’s phaseout announcement in May 2000.”

PFAS exposure has been linked to serious health problems, including cancer, thyroid disease, ulcerative colitis and developmental and reproductive problems, according to the firms.

The firms said limited testing has revealed “high levels” of PFAS in the areas where the dumping occurred. Some residents, they said, have found PFAS in their wells “beyond guidelines set by the government,” and “many residents have been warned not to drink water from their wells for the foreseeable future.”

The scope of the contamination has expanded in recent months, as authorities continue to investigate and residents have identified new dump sites, according to the firms.

“It’s important to work as quickly as possible to identify the full scope of the contamination and force the companies to pay for the damage,” said Sharon Almonrode, chair of the Class Action Group at The Miller Law Firm. “A class action is the best way to obtain a legal recovery that will benefit everyone who’s been harmed. Our team of attorneys has the commitment, experience and resources to go toe-to-toe with these companies.”

Consumer advocate Erin Brockovich, who is working with the legal team and has “championed the cause of PFAS victims” in Kent County, said, “The scope of this contamination is alarming, and thousands in Kent County are now faced with unsafe drinking water and increased health risks.”

“This lawsuit puts these corporations on notice that they will be held accountable for their actions and should make it clear to other corporate polluters that they can’t get away with poisoning our water,” Brockovich said.

Brockovich and the three law firms will explain next steps in the litigation and answer questions from residents at a community meeting in the evening during the week of Dec. 11.

The date and time of the meeting will be announced shortly on the law firms’ websites.

A copy of the lawsuit is online

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