By now, the serious public health dangers presented by per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) in water are widely known. Across the country, municipalities and other wastewater systems that have detected PFAS in their wastewater are facing new financial challenges related to the significant costs of removing these contaminants from wastewater and biosolids. To avoid passing these costs along to ratepayers, many of these wastewater operators are turning to lawsuits as an option to hold PFAS manufacturers accountable for any costs associated with the clean-up.
Hundreds of drinking water and wastewater systems, airports, and businesses have already filed lawsuits over PFAS contamination as part of an ongoing multidistrict litigation (MDL) against PFAS manufacturers, seeking to recover remediation costs. There is still time to file claims, and systems interested in exploring their legal options should consult legal counsel to avoid missing potential opportunities or prejudicing their legal rights. When considering litigation as a cost recovery strategy, the first step is securing the right legal team to seek the best outcome.
Below, we will explore the key considerations for choosing a litigation group, emphasizing the importance of experience, a successful track record, positive client testimonials, and individual attention to each unique case.
Key Considerations for Choosing a Water Contamination Litigation Firm
Experience in Water Contamination Cases
When considering litigation as a cost recovery strategy for PFAS, it is essential to select a law firm with experience representing public agencies and other utilities in contamination cases. A firm that focuses on this area of law will know how to navigate the complex process unique to water and wastewater contamination litigation. From the initial filing, through careful preparation, to fighting for the appropriate compensation, it is important to work with a law firm who has experience with every step. This greatly diminishes the amount of work on the client end and increases the chances of the best possible outcome.
Law firms that focus specifically on contamination litigation for utilities typically also have a greater breadth of knowledge of the water and wastewater industries, which means they better understand the challenges their clients face. For example, firms with decades of experience with water contamination cases have witnessed the evolution of regulations for various emerging contaminants, including the recently proposed EPA PFAS regulations. By staying up to date with current and impending MCL water quality standards, firms can anticipate how regulations may affect their clients’ PFAS management costs.
Law firms that regularly handle water contamination cases may also be more aware of relevant water contamination litigation trends, such as current PFAS litigation trends. These firms, for example, are likely to have more in-depth information on the latest developments in similar cases, which can be helpful to assess and determine the best course of action for water and wastewater systems.
Track Record and Success Rate
While past performance cannot guarantee a positive outcome in future cases, potential clients may wish to identify a firm with many years of experience successfully resolving cases for water and wastewater systems. This can be done by researching the firm's history of verdicts, settlements, and compensation amounts won in past cases.
It is also helpful to learn whether a firm has experience taking water contamination cases to trial. A firm that is not afraid to fight legal battles against large corporations in the courtroom shows dedication to seeking the highest possible compensation for clients. Wastewater systems may choose to research whether a firm tends to settle the majority of its cases outside of court, or if they have experience going to trial and appeal. Some firms have a strong track record of cases won both in the courtroom and through settlements, securing favorable outcomes for their clients by whatever path is necessary to get the right result.
Client Testimonials and Reviews
Client testimonials and reviews are invaluable resources for evaluating the reputation and credibility of a law firm. Learning about the experiences of previous clients who have filed similar lawsuits can provide valuable insights into a firm’s client satisfaction.
Wastewater systems seeking representation can request references from firms they are evaluating. By speaking with past clients, they can learn more about their experience. For example, thanks to their extensive experience with water contamination, some firms significantly reduce the amount of work required for clients during the investigation, filing, and discovery process. This relieves the pressure on clients, allowing them to focus on the pressing needs of their systems and communities.
Some questions water and wastewater systems may ask previous clients while evaluating potential law firms include:
- Does the law firm have in-house environmental contamination expertise?
- Does the firm have experience taking water contamination cases to trial?
- Was the firm responsive to client questions and concerns?
- Did the firm take responsibility for each step of the legal process, or did the client have to dedicate a significant amount of time to managing the lawyers?
Consulting past clients about their experiences with a law firm can provide helpful information about the level of service provided.
Personalized Attention and Case Management
When navigating the complex legal process, each client should be able to depend on personalized attention for their unique case. A competent legal team will take the time to understand the specific circumstances surrounding each client’s contamination issues. Legal counsel should also help guide clients through every step of the journey to cost recovery, from exploring legal options and filing lawsuits, to continuing the fight to seek a positive outcome for clients. This attention to detail helps to protect clients’ interests and achieve desirable results. When a law firm is knowledgeable and dedicated, busy clients can count on them to handle their cases, support them through the legal process, and answer any questions they may have.
Choose the Right Law Firm for Your Case
Selecting the right legal representation for your PFAS lawsuit is critical to seeking the best possible outcome. When evaluating different law firms, it is important to consider the firm's specialization in water contamination cases, track record, client testimonials, and personalized attention. Making an informed decision when choosing your legal team is essential when seeking maximum PFAS cost recovery.
If you are facing increased costs related to PFAS in wastewater, know that you have options. You and your ratepayers should not have to cover the cost of contamination caused by PFAS manufacturers. Water contamination litigation is a viable alternative, enabling wastewater systems to seek to hold manufacturers accountable for the cost of PFAS cleanup. To learn more about your cost recovery options, schedule a free consultation with the team at SL Environmental Law Group.