Legal Roundup: Ohio Reaches PFAS Settlement, Panera Faces Wrongful Death Suit and More

Three chemical giants have settled an Ohio PFAS lawsuit for $110 million, hinting at the scope of the industry’s legal challenges.
By: | December 13, 2023

Ohio and Three Chemicals Companies Reach $110 Million PFAS Settlement

The Case: Prominent chemical manufacturers Chemours, DuPont and Corteva were embroiled in a legal battle with the state of Ohio over the release of PFAS (per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances) from their facilities. PFAS can be found in firefighting foams, nonstick cookware, cleaning products, personal care products and more; dubbed “forever chemicals,” they have been linked to serious health issues.

Scorecard: The trio of companies reached a settlement agreement with Ohio, agreeing to pay a collective $110 million, according to Reuters.

Takeaway: The case is part of a series of legal challenges and settlements related to PFAS contamination, showcasing the increasing legal scrutiny and financial implications for chemical manufacturers for the release of forever chemicals. It also signals a growing trend of state-level interventions in environmental matters, emphasizing the need for businesses to stay abreast of state regulations and changes to the legal landscape.

Egg Suppliers Ordered to Pay $17.7 Million in Conspiracy Verdict

The Case: A group of plaintiffs including major food manufacturers such as Kraft Foods Global, The Kellogg Company and Nestle USA sued egg suppliers for an alleged conspiracy to limit domestic egg supplies to raise prices. The purported conspiracy was said to have occurred during the early to mid-2000s. The plaintiffs accused the egg producers of engaging in various tactics to reduce egg supply, including exporting eggs and slaughtering chickens early.

Scorecard: A jury in the Northern District of Illinois ruled in favor of the food manufacturers, ordering $17.7 million in damages against the egg producers, according to CBS News. Under federal antitrust law, these damages were automatically tripled, totaling over $53 million. Despite the verdict, the defendants, including notable egg suppliers like Cal-Maine Foods and Rose Acre Farms, have expressed their disagreement and intentions to appeal.

Takeaway: The case serves as a significant precedent for businesses regarding compliance with antitrust laws. It underscores the importance of ethical business practices and the legal risks associated with market manipulation strategies.

Panera Faces Second Wrongful Death Suit Over Charged Lemonade

The Case: Panera Bread faces a second wrongful death lawsuit over its caffeinated “charged lemonade.” A Florida family claims the drink caused Dennis Brown’s cardiac arrest. The lawsuit follows another similar case where the consumption of this beverage was linked to a death. Brown, a member of Panera’s “sip club,” had been consuming these drinks for six days before his death.

The lawsuit alleges Panera’s lack of adequate warnings about the high caffeine content in the lemonade. Not accounting for ice dilution, a 30-ounce size large charged lemonade contains “390 milligrams at time of the first lawsuit, which is just 10 milligrams shy of the recommended daily maximum adult consumption amount of caffeine,” ABC News reports.

Panera denies that its product caused Brown’s death. “We view this lawsuit, which was filed by the same law firm as a previous claim, to be equally without merit. Panera stands firmly by the safety of our products,” the company said.

Scorecard: The case has recently been filed and has not yet reached a resolution.

Takeaway: The case highlights the critical importance of clear communication and warnings regarding the contents of food and beverage products, especially those with potentially harmful ingredients like high caffeine levels. It serves as a cautionary tale for the food industry about product labeling and consumer safety.

Frontier Airlines to Allow Breastfeeding in Cockpit After EEOC Case

The Case: Female pilots at Frontier Airlines brought a lawsuit against the company, accusing it of discrimination against pregnant or breastfeeding employees. The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) charged Frontier in 2018 following the pilots’ lawsuit.

Scorecard: In a settlement, Frontier Airlines has agreed to allow pilots to pump breast milk in the cockpit during noncritical flight phases and to reduce flying time for breastfeeding pilots. Furthermore, pregnancy and breastfeeding will be treated the same as other medical conditions affecting a pilot’s ability to fly, according to Fortune.

Takeaway: The settlement recognizes the importance of employers making reasonable accommodations for pregnant and breastfeeding employees. It also demonstrates the impact of legal action in catalyzing change in corporate policies toward more inclusive and supportive work environments. &

Jared Shelly is a journalist based in Philadelphia. He can be reached at [email protected].

More from Risk & Insurance