Minnesota’s Biggest Environmental Lawsuit: The $5 Billion 3M Trial

Minnesota v. 3M

The State of Minnesota is preparing for its largest environmental trial against 3M. The state-based, $145 billion corporation is being charged with contaminating groundwater in Washington County. Starting on February 20, the Minnesota v. 3M trial is expected to last six weeks. 3M is a defendant in 37 similar lawsuits across the country.

The Charges

3M is being charged with causing an estimated $5 billion in damages by dumping perfluorinated chemicals (PFCs, known as C-8) into groundwater and covering up the dangers of doing so. 3M invented carcinogenic PFCs in the 1950s, and the dangerous chemicals dissolve in water and adhere to soil. These features allow them to spread far beyond where they are dumped, and they have been found in the bodies of wildlife and humans. They’ve even made their way to other parts of the country and globe, reaching to the Arctic regions in the blood of polar bears.

Minnesota’s Argument

3M admits to legally dumping PFCs, commonly used in household products such as nonstick cookware and stain repellent, into dump sites. In 2004, the PFCs were discovered to have seeped down from the dump sites into the groundwater. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, prolonged ingestion of these PFCs can potentially cause prostate cancer and infertility. The State of Minnesota is prepared to argue that 3M knowingly covered up the infiltration of the cancer-causing chemicals and refused to inform health officials of the threat they posed.

3M’s Argument

3M alleges that it told health officials of the chemicals and kept them informed of chemical testing and disposal for over 50 years. 3M states that the chemicals are indeed widespread, but harmless. In order to show that Minnesota residents were not harmed, the corporation may use a 2007 finding by the Minnesota Department of Health that shows there were no significant increases in the rate of cancer or birth defects in the Washington County area.


Related: 3M Groundwater Contamination: Will There Be Individual Suits?


Previous & Present Claims at the 3M Trial

Minnesota is only charging 3M for the environmental damage. To this point, the state is not charging 3M for alleged harm done to any individuals. 3M has already been to trial involving similar charges. Back in 2009, Minnesota residents joined together to sue the corporation for damaged property and health problems they claimed were related to the contaminated groundwater. The jury sided with 3M.

For Minnesota to win this trial, it must be able to prove that 3M knew about the PFCs potential to cause harm. It does not need to prove that the chemicals are, in fact, harmful.

GoldenbergLaw Can Help

GoldenbergLaw is committed to holding negligent corporations accountable for their actions. We look forward to learning the results of this trial.