Law, Manufacturing, and Sustainability

Wolverine Worldwide suing 3M for damages

December 19, 2018
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Wolverine Worldwide headquarters
Wolverine Worldwide's global headquarters is in Rockford. Photo via fb.com

Wolverine Worldwide has filed a lawsuit in federal court seeking damages from 3M for allegedly “concealing information” about Scotchgard and causing environmental harm.

The Rockford-based footwear and apparel maker filed the suit against the Maplewood, Minnesota-based applied sciences conglomerate yesterday in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Michigan, “demanding” the case be tried by a jury.

Wolverine Worldwide’s complaint concerns the version of the Scotchgard product 3M developed, tested, manufactured and sold until 2000, which Wolverine used beginning in 1960 to provide water- and stain-repellent properties in some of its shoe leathers.

The substance contained chemicals known as PFOA and PFOS — collectively referred to as PFAS — that are alleged to have caused environmental pollution and groundwater contamination underneath some of Wolverine’s properties and their surrounding areas. Wolverine alleges 3M knew about the chemicals’ harmful properties for decades and concealed it from Wolverine.

3M changed its Scotchguard formula in 2000 to eliminate PFOA and PFOS, but it allegedly continued to sell the old formula for two more years and still maintains PFOA and PFOS posed no environmental or health risks, according to Wolverine.

A 3M spokesperson provided the Business Journal with a statement on the suit this evening.

"We disagree with the allegations in this lawsuit," 3M said. "3M acted responsibly in connection with products containing PFAS and will vigorously defend its environmental stewardship."

Wolverine Worldwide said today it "should not be the only company shouldering the responsibility for this situation.”

“3M, unfortunately, has repeatedly refused to participate or accept any responsibility in Wolverine’s hometown or anywhere else in Michigan,” Wolverine Worldwide said.

The Michigan Department of Environmental Quality filed a federal suit against Wolverine in January, alleging Wolverine’s waste disposal practices, particularly in the House Street area of Belmont, contaminated drinking water.

Plainfield Township and Algoma Township joined the suit in March.

Wolverine says in its federal lawsuit filing yesterday the company is also facing three class actions and “hundreds of individual lawsuits alleging bodily injury and property damage.”

“Wolverine has already demonstrated its commitment to helping our friends, family and neighbors address groundwater concerns by conducting extensive water testing and providing highly effective water filters,” said Blake Krueger, CEO and chair, Wolverine Worldwide.

“Now, we are taking necessary steps to ensure that 3M is held accountable for its conduct and participates in the remediation efforts we have been leading for more than 18 months.”

A complete copy of Wolverine’s lawsuit against 3M can be found at Wolverine’s blog on the matter, WeAreWolverine.com.

Wolverine also filed a notice today in federal court urging the state of Michigan to add 3M as a defendant in the state’s lawsuit against Wolverine Worldwide.

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