S.D.N.Y. Dismisses Water System Operator's Complaint Against Manufacturer for Alleged PFAS-Related Expenses

King & Spalding

Earlier this month, Judge Lewis Liman dismissed a water system operator’s complaint against several companies that allegedly manufactured, sold, licensed, and/or distributed PFAS and PFAS-containing products at a wide variety of places throughout the greater New York area and over a significant period of time. The complaint further alleges that some or all of the described PFAS or PFAS-containing products in turn contaminated New York State water systems, which led to the water system operator incurring expenses related to remediation and monitoring of the materials. SUEZ Water New York Inc. v. E.I. du Pont de Nemours and Company, et al., No. 20-CV-10731 (LJL), 2022 WL 36489 (S.D.N.Y. Jan. 4, 2022).

In a detailed Order, Judge Liman held that while personal jurisdiction existed over some (but not all) of the defendants, the water system operator’s complaint should be dismissed even as to those defendants over which personal jurisdiction existed for failure to state a claim (Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(6)). Judge Liman summarized the basis for his opinion succinctly while rejecting Plaintiff’s causation theory:

Plaintiff’s sparse and speculative allegations fall far afield from anything that has been held sufficient in any water contamination cases cited by the parties. The allegations are bereft of any facts regarding market share, the identity of customers, or the location where the customers resided, or that would tie Manufacturing Defendant’s conduct to Plaintiff’s alleged injury. They amount to the claim that at some point in history the Manufacturing Defendants sold some (unknown) quantity of PFOA or PFOS to some (unknown) number of customers in some (unknown) part of a vast state and that because that same chemical has been found in [Plaintiff’s] water systems (located in a small part of the state), the Manufacturing Defendants somehow caused [Plaintiff’s] injury. Those allegations are insufficient to state a claim as to causation or to “nudge[] [its] claims across the line from conceivable to plausible.” At *17.

Judge Liman had similar thoughts on Plaintiff’s nuisance, negligence, trespass, and strict liability claims, rejecting each in turn and dismissing the complaint pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6).

DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

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