National law firms join IAFF in fight against "forever chemicals"

Three nationally recognized law firms are leading legal efforts for the largest fire-fighter union amid mounting concerns that the gear fire fighters trust with their lives may actually be making them sick with cancers and other devastating illnesses. Turnout gear routinely worn by fire fighters is made using synthetic per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS). PFAS chemicals are toxic and have been linked to higher risks of cancer in people who are exposed.

The International Association of Fire Fighters (IAFF) annual Affiliate Leadership Training Summit (ALTS) is normally a festive gathering that draws thousands of fire fighters from around North America. This year, there was one central topic addressing a more dire question being asked by members of the largest fire fighter union in the world. Are fire fighters developing cancer because of their safety gear? 

In response, the IAFF announced it had retained three nationally recognized law firms, Motley Rice LLC; Simmons Hanly Conroy LLP; and Sullivan Papain Block McManus Coffinas & Cannavo P.C., known collectively as the PFAS Law Firms, to spearhead its use of the judicial system as a tool to encourage industry-wide safety improvements and regulations. The law firms are also available to assist fire fighters and their loved ones who are battling or sadly lost their lives. Nearly 75% of people added to the IAFF’s Fallen Fire Fighter Memorial Wall in 2022 died due to occupational cancer. 

“We look forward to using the court system to bring out the truth from the industry’s own documents. Using the model that exposed the dirty secrets of the asbestos, tobacco, and opioid industries it is our goal to press for answers for fire fighters and their families,” said Motley Rice co-founding attorney Joe Rice. “We have agreed to undertake this representation after many discussions with the leadership of the IAFF. The union’s commitment to the health and safety of their firefighters, hiring of a medical director and staff scientist is unprecedented. They want to change the future and address the exceptionally high incidence of cancer in their membership. This is a cause we want to be part of.”

Attorneys from all three firms have previously represented fire fighters and other unions in a variety of legal matters. They have experience in toxic torts, environmental contamination, occupational health, and workers’ rights.

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About IAFF 

The International Association of Fire Fighters union is the driving force behind nearly every advance in fire and emergency services in the 21st century. With headquarters in Washington, D.C., and Ottawa, Ontario, the IAFF represents more than 333,000 professional fire fighters and EMS professionals. Its members protect more than 85 percent of the population in communities throughout the United States and Canada.

Motley Rice LLC

Motley Rice is one of the nation’s largest plaintiffs’ litigation firms. Rooted in protecting worker’s rights and fighting for occupational safety and health, the firm and its attorneys have represented fire fighters in matters related to asbestos exposures, wrongful death, personal injury, pension fund securities fraud, data privacy, and Sept. 11, 2001. Headquartered in Mt. Pleasant, S.C., they were involved with the investigations and led litigation efforts after the tragic events at the Sofa Super Store fire on June 18, 2007.

Their lawyers are known for their experience against asbestos companies, the tobacco industry, September 11, 2001 financiers, and the entire opioid supply chain. Today, the firm litigates complex cases for individuals, families, workers, communities, governmental entities, and investors in a variety of areas, including representing plaintiffs in class actions and individual lawsuits that allege contamination caused by PFAS as well as litigation involving other toxic torts, environmental contamination, securities fraud, mesothelioma, workplace injuries, and wrongful death. Headquartered at 28 Bridgeside Blvd., Mount Pleasant, S.C.

Simmons Hanly Conroy LLP

The firm is veteran-owned and one of the nation’s largest mass tort law firms dedicated to helping victims of mesothelioma and asbestos-related cancers. With nearly 250 employees, including 80 attorneys practicing nationwide, Simmons Hanly Conroy is committed to holding corporations responsible for wrongdoing.

The firm has represented thousands of patients and families across the country. Additional areas of litigation include prescription opioids, environmental contamination, pharmaceutical and medical devices, sexual abuse, consumer protection and personal injury. Simmons Hanly Conroy is proud to have served as legal representative of several thousand victims and families impacted by the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks. Headquartered at One Court Street, Alton, Ill.

Sullivan Papain Block McManus Coffinas & Cannavo P.C.

The firm is a New York litigation firm founded in 1927 with a proud history of representing fire fighters injured, and families of those who have died, in the line of duty. Sullivan Papain was a leader in the efforts to establish the 9/11 Victim Compensation Fund and to enact other legislation to serve the families of first responders killed or seriously injured in the 9/11 terrorist attacks or by reason of its toxic aftermath. 

The firm recovered $611 million from the 9/11 Victim Compensation Fund for 900 fire fighters and their families for no legal fees. The firm was also one of just six firms chosen to represent the State of New York in its lawsuit against the major tobacco companies which resulted in a record $25 billion recovery for the State. Headquartered at 120 Broadway 27th Floor, New York, N.Y.

Motley Rice has additional offices in Connecticut; Washington, D.C.; New Jersey; New York; Pennsylvania; Rhode Island; West Virginia. Responsible attorneys: Anne McGuiness Kearse (DC, SC, WV); Jayne Conroy (DC, MA, NY) and Nicholas Papain (NY). Motley Rice LLC, a South Carolina Limited Liability Company, is engaged in the NJ practice of law through Motley Rice New Jersey LLC. Esther Berezofsky attorney responsible for New Jersey practice. Prior results do not guarantee similar outcomes.