In a lawsuit filed by DeNittis Osefchen Prince, P.C., on Friday April 21, 2022, the Honorable Michael A. Toto, A.J.S.C. of the Superior Court of New Jersey, Middlesex County, granting class certification of a class of approximately 300,000 customers who purchase and consumer water from Defendant Middlesex Water Company. The case stems from two notices sent to Middlesex Water customers from the Company. One October 22 and the other on November 8, 2021, wherein Middlesex Water advised customers that their water has levels of Perfluorooctanoic Acid (PFOA) above drinking water standards. Perfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) are a group of man-made chemicals that include Perfluorooctane Sulfonate (PFOS) and Perfluorooctanoic Acid (PFOA). PFOA, which is the chemical at issue in this matter, resists heat, oil, stains, grease, and water, and can remain in the human body for long periods of time. Although the CDC claims the human health effects from exposure to PFOA are unknown, the EPA reports that exposure over certain levels may result in adverse health effects such as developmental effects to fetuses or breastfed infants, cancer, liver effects, immune effects, thyroid effects, and other effects such as cholesterol changes.
In May 2016, the EPA issued a notice that set the lifetime health advisory for PFOA at 0.07 μg/L, or 70 parts per trillion. This health advisory is not a regulation. In 2020, the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (“DEP”) adopted a maximum contaminant level (“MCL”) for PFOA in drinking water at 0.014 μg/L, or 14 parts per trillion, with monitoring for such beginning in the first quarter of 2021. N.J.A.C. 7:10-5.2 (a) (5) (ii).
Both notices that Defendant sent to its customers on October 22 and November 8, 2021, admitted that the MCL for PFOA in New Jersey is 14 parts per trillion (ppt), and that a sample of Middlesex Water’s system collected on August 2, 2021 found PFOA at 36.1 ppt. The notices explained that “[p]eople who drink water containing PFOA in excess of the MCL over time could experience problems with their blood serum cholesterol levels, liver, kidney, immune system, or, in males, the reproductive system.” The noticed further explained that drinking water containing PFOA in excess of the MCL over time could also increase the risk of testicular and kidney cancer, and for females, could cause developmental delays in a fetus or infant which may persist through childhood. Middlesex Water advised that if customers had “specific health concerns, a severely compromised immune system, have an infant, are pregnant, or are elderly, [they] may be at higher risk than other individuals and should seek advice from [their] health care providers about drinking this water.” Further, Middlesex Water recommended installing a home water filter to reduce levels of PFOA in the tap water or use bottled water for drinking, cooking, or preparing beverages for infants. However, despite Middlesex Water’s notices telling people they should see a doctor, purchase bottle water and/or purchase water filters, Middlesex Water not only did not offer reimbursement to customers for such items, but also continued to charge them for their tainted water.
After extensive briefing by DeNittis Osefchen Prince, P.C. and significant oral argument by Stephen DeNittis, Esq., the Court granted class certification finding that Plaintiffs are primarily seeking injunctive relief and medical monitoring, as well as other monetary damages. It further found that Defendant “acted in a consistent manner towards members of the class” by addressing them all either in a form notice or not at all.
This Court did not address the merits of Plaintiff’s claims beyond finding that it can proceed as a class action and that the actually merits of the action will be determined once discovery is complete. Plaintiffs and the class are represented by DeNittis Osefchen Prince, P.C. and co-counsel Michael Galpern, Esq. at Javerbaum Wurgraft Kahn Wikstrom & Sinins, P.C.
See the Court’s opinion granting class certification click here Order Granting Class certification