Footwear Maker Faces Lawsuits Over Use of 3M's Scotchgard
A lawsuit filed last week in state court in Kent County, Michigan, seeks property damage and medical surveillance for at least six families. Their wells are contaminated by chemicals the company dumped in the area for decades, the suit claims.
Another suit was filed Tuesday and a third is planned in coming days over pollution near a plant outside of Grand Rapids, including one seeking class-action status, according to lawyer Esther Berezofsky.
"Wolverine used Scotchgard, a 3M product," the law firm said in a statement. Scotchgard contains perfluorooctane sulfonate and perfluorooctanoic acid, which have been linked to some forms of cancer, thyroid problems, and other diseases.
Rockford, Michigan-based Wolverine, maker of Cat work boots and Keds and Saucony shoes said in a statement that it is working on a site cleanup. St. Paul, Minnesota-based 3M said it doesn’t have any liability for the issue.
“Wolverine has said it is committed to working with local, state and federal regulators to develop long-term water solutions for our community," Wolverine said. "While we intend to remain a good partner and corporate citizen and address issues facing our community, we will simultaneously protect and vigorously defend our company against ongoing litigation."
In its statement, 3M said "3M never manufactured or disposed of PFC-containing materials in Michigan. Under Michigan law, we believe 3M has no liability for any damages allegedly caused by Wolverine’s manufacturing and waste disposal practices. We believe this lawsuit lacks merit.”
3M paid $850 million to settle a case over the same chemicals, brought by the state of Minnesota. The chemicals were for years used for years by 3M in Scotchgard, and by DuPont (now DowDupont Inc.) to make Teflon, but they have since been phased out.
DuPont and its Chemours Co. spinoff, which carried on the business line in related chemicals, also agreed to pay $671 million to settle lawsuits. As part of that suit, a study of the local population linked the chemicals to diseases including testicular and kidney cancer, and ulcerative colitis.
Wolverine and 3M were also sued in Michigan with similar complaints in December 2017, in a case that says they jointly developed a product to treat leather with the chemicals. The shoemaker was also sued by Michigan’s Department of Environmental Quality for cleanup costs of the chemicals near its demolished factory near Grand Rapids.