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Swanson v. 3M Company

Water, Water everywhere, but not a drop to drink

Scotchgard, made by 3M, is a stain and water repellent applied to fabric, furniture, and carpets to protect them from stains. The original formula of Scotchgard contained perfluorochemicals (PFCs). PFCs do not biodegrade. This makes them a good chemical for a stain repellant but creates problems when they enter the environment. 


3M began marketing Scotchgard to the public in the 1950 and continued to do so until 2000. PFCs are virtually indestructible chemicals. 


In 1999 an Ohio law firm filed a lawsuit against DuPont Chemical Company for its manufacture and distribution of Teflon. DuPont purchased PFCs from 3M and used them to make Teflon in West Virginia. In 2017, the class action was settled, with DuPont paying over $670 million.


The Ohio law firm and others filed a similar lawsuit in Washington County, Minnesota against 3M, but the case was dismissed in 2009.


In late 2010, Lori Swanson filed a lawsuit against 3M, alleging that the chemicals were hazardous and contaminated the waters in the eastern metropolitan area of Minneapolis-St. Paul.


The case was highly contentious, with over five law firms from Minnesota, Washington D.C., Chicago and Houston engaged in the litigation. The litigation took almost eight years and involved the production of over 27 million pages of documents, 2,600 court filings, over 100 witness depositions, and over 100 judicial hearings.


On the morning of trial, the parties settled the matter with 3M agreeing to pay $850 million, with the money to be used to create clean drinking water in the east metropolitan area. The lawsuit represents the largest environmental recovery in Minnesota history and the third largest environmental recovery in the history of the United States. 


The magnitude of the success of the case stood out in part due to the fact that in Washington County 3M was able to get a similar claim dismissed and that a similar lawsuit filed against 3M by the Metropolitan Council in Minnesota resulted in a settlement in which the Met Council paid 3M $1 million to settle the case. 


This case was filed in Hennepin County District Court as Swanson v. 3M Company, 27-CV-10-28862

The court file contains excellent briefs drafted by some of the best lawyers in the country. It is a good resource for briefs discussing the statute of limitations, MERLA, scope of damages, environmental remediation, natural resource damages, and punitive damages.


Swanson v. 3M Company


Amended Complaint. Download Below.


Settlement Agreement and Order. Download Below.