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Michigan Family Agrees to Settle Pollution Lawsuit Against Wolverine World Wide and 3M

— February 23, 2020

Wolverine World Wide and 3M recently agreed to settle a lawsuit over contaminated ground water with a Michigan family.

On Friday, a Michigan family agreed to settle a lawsuit it filed against Wolverine World Wide and 3M. The suit was filed by Seth and Tobyn McNaugton of Belmont in December 2017 in response to tests that showed the family’s drinking water had been poisoned by “toxic fluorochemicals that were in manufacturing waste dumped near their home decades ago.” The confidential settlement agreement was approved by Kent County 17th Circuit Court Judge George J. Quist. Before the agreement, a trial to resolve the matter was scheduled for March 2. 

Brown wooden gavel; image by Rawpixel, via
Brown wooden gavel; image by Rawpixel, via

When commenting on the agreement, the couple’s attorney, Aaron Phelps, said “we’re happy the parties were able to reach an out-of-court settlement.” He added:

“It was a significant effort on Seth and Tobyn’s part to carry this forward as lead plaintiffs over the last two years, and we and all the residents appreciate their effort in that regard.”

In the suit, the McNaughtons argued the toxic PFAS chemicals in their drinking water has led to a host of problems for the family. For example, they claimed their “health and property values have been harmed” from the chemicals that were “discovered in their well on Chandler Drive in Belmont in 2017.” Additionally, their four-year-old son Jack has “tested positive for extremely high PFAS levels — 484,000 parts-per-trillion — which the McNaughtons believe has caused problems with his immune system and vaccination uptake.” They also blamed other health issues on the toxic chemicals, including high cholesterol, miscarriages, and pregnancy complications.

For reference, the family’s home sits about a half mile away from Wolverine’s House Street dump, “where the company put tannery waste into unlined trenches and lagoons in the 1960s.” The waste was further tainted by “3M Scotchgard that Wolverine used to waterproof shoe leather at its Rockford tannery.” In 2017, a “groundwater contamination plume from the dump was discovered.” Unfortunately, it was also discovered that the “plume has spread southeast to the Rogue River, a Grand River tributary,” according to the suit.

This isn’t the first case Wolverine and 3M has settled recently. In fact, earlier this week the companies “announced a settlement between the two companies in a third-party complaint in the regulatory case.” However, 3M is still one of the defendants in a suit filed by Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel in January against 17 chemical manufacturers. 

When commenting on all the lawsuits being filed against 3M and Wolverine, Christopher Hastings, a Western Michigan University Cooley Law School professor, said, “There’s a lot of pressure to settle these cases before they go to trial.” He added that 3M, Wolverine, and similar companies want to “avoid liability decisions made by judges or juries that would prevent them from re-litigating certain facts in subsequent cases.” He said:

“The last thing Wolverine wants is for there to be issue preclusion. That’s something they should want to avoid with the intensity of 1,000 suns.”


3M, Wolverine settle pollution lawsuit with Michigan family

3M to pay $55M in Michigan PFAS settlement


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