Footwear maker Wolverine World Wide Inc. filed a lawsuit against 3M Co. on Dec. 18, alleging that the industrial and consumer conglomerate concealed the environmental and health risks of chemicals in its Scotchgard water- and stain-repellent product.
In a complaint filed to U.S. District Court of the Western District of Michigan, Wolverine alleges that 3M had known for decades that chemicals known as PFAS, which were in Scotchgard, posed such risks. The plaintiff further accused 3M of continuing to assure customers that Scotchgard was safe, while instructing employees to destroy documents related to its potential environmental and health issues.
Wolverine purchased Scotchgard from 3M for more than 40 years, according to the filing. The shoemaker, which offers brands including Hush Puppies and Merrell, applied Scotchgard to the leather used for its products. It was announced in 2000 that 3M would phase out Scotchgard, but no safety issues were cited as a reason.
Wolverine said that due to its use of Scotchgard, the company now faces three class-action lawsuits and hundreds of individual lawsuits alleging bodily injury and property damage. It also was compelled to investigate and address possible environmental damage at sites connected to its tannery operations in Michigan, following a lawsuit from that state's Department of Environmental Quality and an order from the federal Environmental Protection Agency. Actions taken by the footwear maker have included implementing a water sampling program and providing home filtration systems to residents in the surrounding community.
Wolverine is seeking various monetary damages, as well as an injunction that would require 3M to handle any environmental investigation and cleanup on the shoemaker's property.