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PFC suit against 3M blocked on health, but not punitive damages

  • December 19, 2008 - 10:58 PM

No one's been harmed by the spread of a 3M Co. chemical through groundwater, but four Washington County residents can still seek punitive damages against the company.

Washington County Judge Mary Hannon blocked a claim by the residents that they had sustained health problems that were traceable to exposure to perfluorochemicals, which the company manufactured from 1950 to 2002 and landfilled until 1974.

Trace amounts of PFCs, used in the manufacture of nonstick cookware, stain-resistant carpets and fabrics and other products, have been found in public and private wells in the east metro area.

The Minnesota Department of Health, which sets limits for exposure to the pollutants, has found no evidence of adverse health effects from exposure to PFCs, said James Kelly, a department research scientist.

The judge allowed the residents to seek punitive damages, against the company for negligence and trespass. Also pending is a claim that the pollutants have harmed the plaintiffs' property values.

Gale Pearson, an attorney for the plaintiffs, said that she was "ecstatically" pleased to get the go-ahead on punitive damages and that the decision on health impacts can be appealed.

3M spokesman Bill Nelson said the company will fight the remaining claims in a trial that is scheduled to begin in May.

BILL MCAULIFFE

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