News Recap for 11-6-20
Bloomberg Law: PFAS Regulations for Groundwater Could Be Imminent — Though the presidential election is still unfolding, it’s a good bet that questions surrounding PFAS in groundwater—particularly the fate of federal regulations about so-called “forever chemicals”—could be answered soon if Joe Biden emerges victorious. The former vice president’s environmental plan specifically includes language about designating per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances, commonly referred to as PFAS, “as a hazardous substance,” and setting enforceable limits for PFAS in the Safe Drinking Water Act. This comes after the Trump administration in 2019 moved forward with a PFAS action plan—but as yet no regulations. Significantly, the administrative efforts taken to regulate PFAS during the Trump administration (and even before) could position the Environmental Protection Agency to be able to move quickly next year, delivering a quick win for a Biden administration.
Yahoo Finance: Bayer takes $10 billion writedown, flags higher Roundup settlement bill — Bayer is facing a double hit from a higher legal bill for claims relating to weedkiller Roundup as well as 9.25 billion euros ($10.82 billion) in impairments on agriculture businesses, much of it related to its Monsanto deal. The company said the write-downs, driven by weaker demand from farmers due to low biofuel prices, plus an increase of about $750 million in the costs of settlement terms with U.S. plaintiffs over Roundup, resulted in a loss before interest and tax of 9.4 billion euros in the third quarter. Bayer said that 88,500 of the 125,000 glyphosate claims in the class settlement have been agreed in principle and that it was hoping to make considerable progress over the next few months.
National Law Review: California Water PFAS Lawsuit – An Increasing Trend? — As states continue setting drinking water limits for PFAS and in preparation for the EPA’s final determination of a Maximum Contaminant Level for PFAS in drinking water, many water utilities are beginning to evaluate the steps needed to come into compliance with existing or anticipated water regulations. Comprehensive compliance programs are being created and costly well testing sites are being built to determine PFAS content at various points along the waterways for drinking water sources. At water treatment facilities, expensive water filtration systems are being installed to remove as many PFAS as possible from drinking water sources. With water utilities coming under fire in the litigation world for PFAS issues, these steps may curtail the short-term issues and costs associated with PFAS litigation.
About Lawsuits: Discovery for Talc Powder Bellwether Trials Continuing in Federal Litigation — With more than 20,000 talc powder cancer lawsuits pending throughout the federal court system, parties involved in the litigation are working on case-specific discovery in a few dozen claims that are part of a bellwether pool, which must be completed by late January 2021. While the outcomes of the federal bellwether trials will not have any binding effect on other claims, they will be closely watched by parties involved in the litigation and may heavily influence any eventual talcum powder settlements the manufacturer may consider offering to women diagnosed with cancer.
Carrier Management: Are Forever Chemicals a Forever Problem for Insurers? — Much discussion of casualty catastrophe is consumed with talk of the “next asbestos,” the $100 billion insurance loss caused by a ubiquitous mineral used for insulation and other products that is now known to cause cancer. The asbestos example is important to understand because it created precedents that tend to reappear in mass litigation, but it is only one example of a casualty catastrophe. Another important example is MTBE (methyl tert-butyl ether), and the precedent of MTBE may be more important now than ever.