Firefighter Gear Lawsuit Key Facts
Defendants:
3M Company, DuPont, Tyco Fire Products and other manufacturers
Injuries:
Kidney cancer, testicular cancer, kidney disease, thyroid disease, ulcerative colitis
Status:
Accepting cases, no global injury settlements or bellwether trials yet
MDL:
No turnout gear MDL, but some cases are combined into MDL 2873

Firefighter Gear PFAS Lawsuit Updates

As of June 2024, there is no multidistrict litigation specifically for firefighter turnout gear lawsuits. However, our research has indicated that several turnout gear lawsuits may be included in the Aqueous Film Forming Foam (AFFF) MDL 2873. There are currently a total of 8,270 pending cases in the AFFF MDL.

AFFF is used to fight fuel-based fires and contains toxic PFAS chemicals linked to cancer just like turnout gear, or bunker gear. Since AFFF and turnout gear both affect firefighters, combining them into the AFFF MDL makes sense to streamline the litigation process.

We’ve researched court documents and spoken to our legal partners to bring you the latest turnout gear lawsuit updates.

Timeline of Firefighter PFAS Litigation

  • May 2024:
    San Francisco became the first major American city to ban PFAS from firefighter gear. This is a great step toward better safety for firefighters, and we hope other cities will follow.
  • Three large plaintiffs’ firms — Simmons Hanly Conroy, Motley Rice and Sullivan Papain Block McGrath Coffinas & Cannavo — are working with the International Fire Fighter Association to demand turnout gear be replaced with PFAS alternatives. We’ve worked extensively with Simmons Hanly Conroy for many years, and they've proven to have an excellent track record with recovering settlements and verdicts for their clients.
  • Meanwhile, there have been no turnout gear lawsuit trials scheduled so far in the MDL. But lawyers on both sides have come up with a trial pool and are finalizing the schedule for discovery and picking bellwether trial cases. This will most likely continue for the rest of the year, and we speculate that the first trial may start later in 2025.
  • February 2024:
    Judge Richard Mark Gergel, who is handling the South Carolina Aqueous Film Forming Foam MDL 2873, issued an order for turnout gear-specific Plaintiff Fact Sheets for any turnout gear cases in the MDL.
  • We think that because AFFF also largely affects firefighters, this could streamline these cases in the MDL because some plaintiffs name AFFF and turnout gear as methods of exposure. As many of the PFAS water contamination lawsuits brought by states and public water systems are settling for billions of dollars, this will hopefully shift the focus to individual injury cases in the MDL.
  • Highlights from 2023:
    One law firm in South Carolina filed turnout gear lawsuits for over 130 firefighters and other first responders. Like other turnout gear lawsuits, plaintiffs are military and civilian firefighters.
  • Sadly, they now suffer from a variety of illnesses including prostate, bladder and pancreatic cancers. They are turning to the legal system to seek compensation from companies that manufactured AFFF and turnout gear. The lawsuit claims companies knew PFAS could cause health problems, but they didn’t warn the public and continued to sell PFAS-containing turnout gear.
  • In March, the International Association of Fire Fighters (IAFF) filed a lawsuit against the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA). IAFF’s complaint said NFPA required the use of PFAS for turnout gear testing standards. Meanwhile, NFPA has called the lawsuit baseless. IAFF has been advocating on behalf of firefighters, including working with law firms to get PFAS removed from turnout gear and secure safer options in protective clothing.
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We will continue to update this section with all the latest information surrounding firefighter turnout gear litigation. So far, the AFFF MDL seems to be a repository for several kinds of PFAS lawsuits, including water contamination, AFFF and firefighter turnout gear.

Our research has indicated that lawyers think the water contamination portion of the MDL may be coming to an end, making room for AFFF and turnout gear cancer and injury lawsuits.

Why Are Firefighters Filing Turnout Gear Lawsuits?

According to our legal partners, firefighters and other first responders are filing turnout gear lawsuits because they claim that toxic chemicals called PFAS used to make turnout gear have led them to develop cancer and other health problems. On top of that, plaintiffs say defendants knew about the risks for years but didn’t warn those using their products and may have actively concealed the dangers.

To make matters worse, firefighters also use and train with AFFF, another source of PFAS exposure.

We analyzed one 2023 study in Environmental Research that found cancer-causing PFAS accumulates in the blood of firefighters exposed to AFFF and turnout gear or bunker gear. Firefighters also have an increased risk of cancers linked to PFAS exposure, such as thyroid, kidney, testicular and prostate cancers.

“Even worse, Defendants concealed the hazardous toxicity, persistence and bioaccumulation of PFAS, and repeatedly misrepresented the safety of PFAS or PFAS-containing materials”
O’Connor v. 3M et al.

In reviewing court documents, we found a good example of a lawsuit filed by a firefighter who was exposed to PFAS from AFFF and turnout gear. This lawsuit echoes the frustrations and causes of action asserted by other plaintiffs we’ve seen in this litigation.

Robert O’Connor filed his lawsuit 2:24-cv-00411-RMG in the AFFF MDL. O’Connor served for 40 years in the Worcester Fire Department in Massachusetts, and during fire suppression and training, he wore turnouts and used AFFF. He alleges that his exposure to defendants’ PFAS products led him to develop prostate cancer.

According to his lawsuit, “defendants concealed the hazardous toxicity, persistence and bioaccumulation of PFAS, and repeatedly misrepresented the safety of PFAS or PFAS-containing materials.”

Who Qualifies To File a Lawsuit?

Our legal partners have informed us that firefighters, paramedics and other first responders who used turnout gear and later developed specific types of cancer may be eligible to file a lawsuit. Filing a lawsuit may in turn provide compensation for financial, physical and emotional damages.

Families of firefighters and first responders may also file a wrongful death lawsuit against PFAS turnout gear makers.

Conditions Named in Firefighter Gear Lawsuits
  • Kidney cancer
  • Testicular cancer
  • Chronic kidney disease
  • Thyroid disease
  • Ulcerative colitis

Currently, firefighters have no safe turnout gear options, and filing a lawsuit can help spread awareness and may help give firefighters and other first responders safer options to protect themselves on the job.

“We need to combat what is killing us. Cancer is the number one killer of firefighters, and for years, corporate interests have put profits over our lives. It stops now,” said Edward Kelly, General President of the International Fire Fighter Association.

How To Find a Turnout Gear Cancer Lawyer

To find a turnout gear lawyer, we recommend you click on the contact forms on this page for a free case review. You can also search for a lawyer online or contact your local bar association.

In our experience, the lawyers who are best equipped to handle complex, large litigations like PFAS turnout gear lawsuits, are firms that have the resources and financial muscle to take on huge companies like 3M and DuPont in mass tort litigation.

These large national firms might not have an office in your hometown. However, they help clients from all over the country. Make sure you speak to a few firms and ask them about their credentials, experience and record of negotiating settlements and winning jury trials.

“We need to combat what is killing us. Cancer is the number one killer of firefighters, and for years, corporate interests have put profits over our lives. It stops now.”
Edward Kelly, General President of the International Fire Fighter Association (IAFF)

The International Association of Firefighters has chosen three powerhouse law firms to represent firefighters and their families in seeking injury compensation. They are also helping to advocate for all turnout gear to be replaced with PFAS-free alternatives.

Drugwatch’s legal partner Simmons Hanly Conroy is one of those firms, and they have a track record of leadership in mass torts and recovering settlements and jury verdicts for clients. They are passionate about helping firefighters and first responders.

Please seek the advice of a medical professional before making health care decisions.