Cohen Milstein is at the forefront of PFAS and environmental toxic tort litigation involving contaminated water. We are currently court-approved co-lead counsel in two of the largest PFAS and water-related toxic tort class actions in the United States: Victoria Carey, et al. v. E.I. DuPont de Nemours and The Chemours Company, et al. (E.D.N.C) and In re Flint Water Cases (E.D. Mich.).

Our goal is singular and clear. We are dedicated to representing local communities, water utilities, water companies, and other entities burdened with damages and costs resulting from PFAS contamination.

We have joined with three other law firms to form a unique and powerful alliance to bring together all of the experience and skills necessary to represent communities facing difficult decisions about how to respond to PFAS contamination. The PFAS Advisory & Litigation Group is ready to guide your community through the process of deciding how to best respond to the issues raised by PFAS in the water supply and how best to protect ratepayers.

What Are PFAS?

Per-and poly-fluoroalkyl substances, or PFAS, also known as “forever chemicals,” are toxic, man-made chemicals that are being discovered in drinking water across the county. The toxic chemicals have been manufactured and used in a variety of consumer products since the 1940s.

There are several different PFAS, including PFOA, PFOS, and GenX and other replacement PFAS. Studies have found that PFOA, PFOS, and GenX have been found in drinking water due to localized contamination. Localized contamination includes:

  • Factories and manufacturing plants that make products that contain PFAS, such as cookware, stain- and water-resistant fabrics and carpeting, cleaning products, and other household and automotive products
  • Airports and military installations that use aqueous film forming foam (AFFF) firefighting foams

Exposure to PFAS chemicals can cause adverse health outcomes, including:

  • Low infant birth weight
  • Decreased fertility
  • Elevated cholesterol
  • Abnormal thyroid hormone levels
  • Liver inflammation
  • Weakening of the immune system
  • Cancer

Our Goal & How We Can Help

Our goal is to help local communities, water utilities, water companies, and other entities ensure that the damages caused by PFAS contamination are not paid by communities, ratepayers, water suppliers and others, but are paid by the chemical companies that are responsible for this life-threatening contamination.

We track and analyze all existing PFAS related litigation on a daily basis and know what issues have been litigated in other cases and what evidence has been identified and disclosed in those cases. The group brings comprehensive resources in terms of in-house discovery teams, third-party environmental testing and regulatory teams, as well as crisis management teams. We track PFAS related actions and developments at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and at state environmental agencies and track the most recent developments related to testing and regulating PFAS compounds. We have unique insights into the roles possible actions of those agencies related to PFAS issues. We are frequently contacted by national environmental reporters who rely upon our expertise to report on PFAS related developments.

Our Leadership

Cohen Milstein’s PFAS Advisory & Litigation team include nationally recognized trial lawyers, who are highly regarded for their subject-matter expertise in environmental law and litigation.

Theodore J. Leopold is Co-Chair of Cohen Milstein's Complex Tort Litigation practice and leads the firm’s Environmental Toxic Tort team, which, under his leadership, has been recognized as among the best in the nation by The National Law Journal, “Winner – Elite Trial Lawyers – Environmental Protection” (2019), and Law360, “Practice Group of the Year – Environmental” (2018). He is court appointed Co-Lead Counsel on two of most high-profile environmental toxic tort mass actions in the U.S. today—In re Flint Water Cases (E.D. Mich.) and Victoria Carey, et al. v. E.I. DuPont de Nemours and The Chemours Company, et al. (E.D.N.C)

John A. Sheehan is a member of Cohen Milstein’s Complex Tort Litigation practice and leads the firm’s PFAS Litigation team. He has more than 30 years of experience in environment law and litigation, with a focus on state and federal water and wastewater quality issues. Mr. Sheehan’s litigation experience spans both the private and public sectors, including the U.S. Department of Justice in the Environment and Natural Resources Division, where he was a senior trial attorney and represented the United States in high-profile, precedent setting environmental litigation. In private practice he represented the State of Florida in its lawsuit against BP, arising out of the Deepwater Horizon disaster.

Our Representative Matters

Cohen Milstein’s PFAS Advisory & Litigation team has extensive knowledge and expertise in litigation high-profile water, PFAS, and other environmental toxic tort lawsuits. Some of our current litigation and past successes include.

  • Victoria Carey, et al. v. E.I. DuPont de Nemours and The Chemours Company, et al., No. 7:17-CV-201-D (E.D.N.C.): Cohen Milstein is Interim Co-Lead Class Counsel in this putative toxic tort class action against DuPont and its former wholly-owned subsidiary, Chemours. Since 1980, DuPont and Chemours have knowingly dumped toxic chemical byproducts into the Cape Fear River affecting potentially more than 770,000 residents in North Carolina and have lied to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and state regulators regarding their conduct. On April 19, 2019, the court issued an opinion denying in large part Defendants’ motion to dismiss, allowing Plaintiffs to pursue the bulk of their claims, including allowing Plaintiffs to seek damages for future medical expenses. This case has been reported in the media throughout the United States.
  • In re Flint Water Cases, No. 16-cv-10444 (E.D. Mich.): Cohen Milstein is Co- Lead Class Counsel in this high-profile consolidated class action, alleging that, beginning in 2014, city officials in Flint, Michigan, including the Governor of Michigan, and the engineering firms under their management, blatantly failed to provide the more than 30,000 citizens and businesses of Flint, Michigan with safe drinking water, instead providing them with poisonous, lead-tainted water. On April 1, 2019, the Court granted, in part, plaintiffs’ motion for leave to file a fourth amended complaint and reinstated former Michigan Governor Rick Snyder as a defendant, based on new evidence. This case has been widely reported in the media throughout the United States and internationally.
  • In re: Oil Spill by the Oil Rig “Deepwater Horizon” in the Gulf of Mexico, on April 20, 2010, No. 2:10-md-02179, (E.D. La.): John Sheehan represented the state of Florida in its lawsuit against BP and other companies responsible for the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico to recover the natural resource damages suffered by the State of Florida resulting from the Deepwater Horizon disaster.  Mr. Sheehan was the principal author of the complaint against BP and the other defendants and helped negotiate the settlement that recovered approximately $5 billion dollars for the State of Florida.