Susan Barfield (00:06):
Hello everyone. Thank you for joining another Case Work Stream. We are joined today by experts to talk about the AFFF Fire Fighting Foam lawsuit. When I say experts, I want to take a moment and introduce you to our guest, and then have them share a little bit about their background.
We’ll start off, we’ve got Greg Cade here today, and he is from the Environmental Litigation Group, and we are also joined by both Darren Miller and Adam Binder with D. Miller & Associates.
Thank you all for joining and talking about AFFF with us today.
Gregory Cade (00:44):
Adam Binder (00:46):
Darren Miller (00:46):
Thanks for having us, Susan.
Susan Barfield (00:48):
Yeah, for sure.
Just to get things rolling, if you can share a little bit about your background. Greg, I know you’ve got a really unique firm and what you’re focused on, and so I’d love for folks to hear a little bit about that. Maybe what drew you to the practice of personal injury, mass tort, and class action.
Greg, why don’t you start us off?
Gregory Cade (01:09):
Sounds good, yes. My name’s Gregory Cade. I’m here in Alabama with the Environmental Litigation Group. You’re right, we’re kind of a unique law firm. We handle only environmental and toxic tort matters because most of us around here are science-based people. In other words, our background is either in chemistry and myself, I’m also an industrial hygienist, not just a lawyer.
Environmental management, where we focus specifically on matters where most often, people are injured by some chemical or toxic insult that may lead to some serious whatever, whether it’s an injury of some sort or death, in many instances.
We also do a little bit of work in terms of just helping companies sometimes when they have an environmental issue to try to get themselves up to par and be compliant with environmental related issues. For the most part, that’s kind of what we do.
Susan Barfield (02:12):
Well, thank you for being with us today.
Darren, tell us a little bit about your background.
Darren Miller (02:18):
Thank you, Susan. Again, it’s attorney Darren Miller, and I feel like I’m as equally as unique as Mr. Cade over there in terms of us kind of doing our own different spin on things.
We obviously start off doing a lot of personal injury and a lot of mass torts, but the thing that makes us a little bit different as far as these concerns is that we like to take on cases that we’re passionate about, and then figure out how to get other lawyers involved.
In terms of diversifying into other areas of law that they may not have specific areas of expertise, but they want to try something different that they ordinarily wouldn’t do, but need other experts, like my friend Greg there, to kind of lead the charge with regards to making a difference in people’s lives.
Susan Barfield (03:07):
Yes, you said passionate, and I’m sure everyone will hear the passion come out because I hear it when you talk about your firm, and the expectations about taking care of these plaintiffs.
Darren Miller (03:23):
Absolutely. That is why we’re here, so that’s the biggest part of this.
Susan Barfield (03:27):
Adam, tell us a little bit about what you do at D. Miller.
Adam Binder (03:32):
Yeah, absolutely. Susan, thanks for having me. My name’s Adam Binder, I work with D. Miller & Associates and DMA advocates here in Houston, Texas. I am the Partner Relations Manager and a consultant in the industry.
I get to take Darren’s excitement and Greg’s excitement and go kind of spread the love a little bit. I’m helping new attorneys diversify into the world to mass tort, but also being a consultant and helping seasoned veterans of the industry expand their reach, gather more cases, and implement new systems and processes.
Susan Barfield (04:06):
Well Adam, a lot of the attorneys that are listening today… Keep in mind too, there are attorneys that want to get into mass tort, they don’t really know how to do that, and so I know the services that you offer are so valuable and I know we’re going to talk about that later.
Thank you for joining us today.
Adam Binder (04:26):
Susan Barfield (04:27):
Well, let’s just jump in. As I mentioned when I started this, we’re going to be talking about AFFF. This is a complex case that has far-reaching consequences. Again, we’re grateful to the experts that are here today to share their combined knowledge of both the personal injury law, and going to help us walk through the AFFF, Fire Fighting Foam lawsuit.
Let’s start with a little bit about the background. Greg, if you could just really [inaudible 00:04:59] stand for, what is it used for, and how has this product been used?
Gregory Cade (05:06):
Sure. AFFF, or aqueous film forming foam, some people call it aqueous fire, or fighting foam, but it is aqueous film forming foam. It is a chemical that was designed back in the 50s for the sole purpose of being able to suppress flames by removing the oxygen content that typically causes a fire to get out of control, and suppress flames.
It’s a lot more effective than water in many instances, and it was originally used for the purposes of handling or addressing chemical fires and difficult fires to put out in certain type of environments.
It’s been used many ways, just a fire retardant in general, from the military who often use it at military bases or air airports and things of that nature, and just to deal with more problematic fires and such. These chemicals are very, very high in demand, have been high in demand for a very, very long time.
Therefore, it’s been often sold to the government for the purposes of being a product that the government would utilize all over the world in many different places, and so where this chemical has been used, it has now become an environmental problem virtually everywhere you can determine.
Susan Barfield (06:36):
Darren, how did you get interested in these firefighting cases? You talked about being passionate, why is this tort so important to you?
Darren Miller (06:47):
It’s important to me, Susan, because we started… Long time ago, long, long time ago, looking at these Camp Lajeune issues and seeing all the problems that were related to military folks in cancer.
We started with that fight, and we’ve got a bunch of cases as related to that particular issue. Some of the clients used to call us and say, “Hey, listen, here’s going on.” As related to their firefighter relatives in terms of having cancer and having other issues.
As we started to look at some of these cases, it was unbelievable how prevalent these issues were, and how people in the military and these firefighters were literally dying just because of their exposure to these things and no one was doing anything about it.
Greg and I talked about it and so I initially said, “We got to fight this. We got to get going, we got to get moving on this thing.” So we started to do some of these things in house.
Then, I educated myself and figured out that Greg’s been fighting this fight forever. So Greg and I started talking, we started working together and we think alike. Two heads are better than one when you’re fighting all these different companies, which I’m sure that Greg’s about to tell us about.
I’m just glad that we’ve been able to get with someone who really cares, who’s not just a lawyer, but he’s a scientist, he understands, he’s not afraid to fight.
We’re putting all these powers together to, at a minimum, while we can’t fix and resolve these problems, at least we’re moving towards getting better resolutions for the those people that are most affected by this huge problem.
Susan Barfield (08:43):
Yeah, it certainly sounds like the two of you guys coming together in both of your backgrounds is going to be a powerful duo for the plaintiffs.
Greg, you were giving us a little bit of background, can you tell us a little bit more about what the problem with AFFF is?
Gregory Cade (08:58):
Yeah. AFFF is first, think of it as probably one of the most persistent chemicals we’ve ever dealt with. Let’s say that a component of AFFF, PFAS, is one of the most persistent chemicals that we’ve ever dealt with.
In other words, you can find this chemical anywhere. When I say anywhere, anywhere. In the environment, in animals, in people, in virtually everything you touch these days. The problem with this chemical is that it has been determined or found to cause cancer in many aspects.
Obviously the people who are most likely exposed are firefighters. Firefighters use this chemical in a very, very high capacity daily in whatever form or another, whether it’s from training, or you’ll hear stories about firefighters playing with these chemicals and they got some kind of celebration going on.
But it is been determined here, I would say in the recent years that, for the purposes of saying, “Hey, when did we find out that these chemicals are dangerous or problematic?” Let’s just say in the last few years.
As we dig back into this litigation and go back into what has been determined through discovery, these companies that made these chemicals knew that these chemicals were problematic to the human body, animals, and the environment for the most part.
Meaning that they have seen these correlations, whether it’s from some of the most mild conditions up through cancers of, in many instances, of the unique type leading to seem to be putting a high rate of cancer in our firefighters throughout the world.
Susan Barfield (10:43):
As far as bringing this litigation into the courtroom, how did the issue with AFFF even get into the courtroom, and who’s held liable?
Gregory Cade (10:57):
Some of the initial early lawsuits that were filed actually were cities or governments bringing claims because their water systems were impacted by these chemicals. They were finding a high concentration of these chemicals next to plants that manufactured these chemicals, or disposed of these chemicals and whatnot.
They started testing in areas and found out that the wells and the water systems in general had a high content of these particular chemicals. They also saw an unusual high level of injuries of cancer in certain types in these areas.
There was a lawsuit that probably got most attention in Ohio a few years ago, then another one over in West Virginia, and they were all community type exposure, type matters. But they also had injuries that are directly in line with what we see in firefighters, and there were just people living in the areas that had conditions like kidney cancer, and testicular cancer, and pancreatic cancer.
I mentioned those cancers in particular because those cancers are not noted very well in our signs that are likely related to these AFFF chemicals. From there, this litigation started looming pretty much all over the country. People started looking and determined that there are cities that were impacted with these chemicals, the water systems and such. The government started looking at it.
Now we have litigation that’s wide open dealing with AFFF, and an MDL located down in Charleston, South Carolina. That litigation’s been ensuing now for about three years. It’s before Judge Richard Gergel, where I’m one of the members on the plaintiff executive committee. We’re litigating that matter for a number of firefighters and people injured by these chemicals.
Susan Barfield (12:57):
You mentioned also the kidney cancer, what are some of the reported injuries that we can expect to see in the future? Also, based on your experience, do you have an estimate of not only the current volume of plaintiffs in the lawsuit, but the potential impact?
Gregory Cade (13:15):
Yeah, so there’s a host of, and I would think of them from a higher degree of association to a degree association, because all of them are linked by the studies.
We have kidney cancer, we have testicular cancer, we have prostate cancer, we have pancreatic cancer, liver cancer, bladder cancer, non-cancer ulcerative colitis, we have non Hodgkin’s lymphoma, colon cancer in many aspects, leukemia, lymphoma, some instances of breast cancer, which we’ve seen in some male firefighters even, and ovarian cancer.
I look at that as a varying degree of very high linkability down to all lower end of linkability, but there is an association with all those injuries I just described.
Susan Barfield (14:09):
Is there anything unique about the plaintiffs in this litigation?
Gregory Cade (14:16):
I can say unique, in fact, they’ve been exposed and we can prove up for many aspects that their exposure has been high. But certainly as the litigation describes itself as aqueous film forming foam, or firefighting foams, we see a lot of firefighters that seem to have a very, very high prevalence of these conditions I just described.
We see these conditions, again, in those who are living around military bases, living on military bases, and we can prove up that their exposure has been high to these chemicals.
The condition seems to be very in line with both groups of those exposed people.
Darren Miller (15:00):
Susan, I got to jump in here.
This is one of the reasons, as you’re clearly seeing, as to why my firm, ELG, works so well is that while Greg is… He’s so smart and knowledgeable on these issues, but he can relate to you. He lets you understand, he can dumb it down for us with regards from a science perspective, knowing that he’s the guy on the front lines and can go toe to toe with those guys out there when we need him to.
He’s been able to educate me on a lot of things that I didn’t know. Because he speaks to me in this way, and then our clients… We can create that line of communication, and make sure it’s just kind of a smooth transition. It just works so smoothly, and it works out certainly to the benefit of all the clients that are involved.
Susan Barfield (15:56):
Sure. We were talking about this earlier, just the importance of keeping the plaintiffs informed and engaged throughout this process. Having his firm and all that knowledge is just invaluable, for sure.
Greg, is this product still on market or has it been banned?
Gregory Cade (16:15):
Technically, no. It has not been banned, but we anticipate a banning in 2024 as a result of an act that’s called the Natural Defense Authorization Act of 2020. That essentially establishes that there’s going to be at least a winding down, or maybe let’s call it a banning, even, of this particular chemical because this chemical is a bad actor, and it has caused all kind of impact to the environment, to humans, and such.
To answer your question, it has not been banned. What industry typically do to be compliant with something like that, they’ll change the molecules around. The PFAS chemicals that are known to be problematic, they’re C8 chemicals, meaning that there’s a bond around the carbon atoms of different eight different carbon bonds.
They’re going to change it to a C6, and I think it’s in the C6 world now, and you’re going to eventually get down to C4, maybe a Generation X, and all this.
These are just names that are being used on how they’re going to whittle down what they perceive to be the dangerous nature of these chemicals. Ultimately, they say that they won’t be a problem, but my belief is that these chemicals are going to likely be problematic. I don’t care how much they change the chemical formulation.
Susan Barfield (17:46):
When you talk about kind of the correlation between AFFF and PFAS, what is the importance of the AFFF MDL when it comes to the future history of the PFAS litigation?
Gregory Cade (18:01):
When people talk about AFFF and PFAS, they’re really talking about the same family of these chemicals. When you talk about AFFF, you’re talking about firefighting foam or aqueous film forming foam that has the same makeup, or in the inside these foams, you got PFAS chemicals. That is the dangerous component of AFFF, the PFAS chemical.
Now, when you talk about PFAS in general, that could be these chemicals dealing with firefighting foams, Scotchgard, you may know as, the chemical that protects furniture and things of that nature. They’re all manufactured the same way by the same people. The 3Ms of the world, and the DuPonts of the world, at some time or another, they manufactured these chemicals.
When people say, “well, what’s going to happen with the PFAS litigation?” Well, we’re kind of doing in PFAS litigation. It is going to be very difficult to get away from aqueous film forming foams, and have a separate world of just PFAS chemicals because you’re going to be basically talking about the same thing technically.
Susan Barfield (19:09):
Darren, you talked about being passionate. What is so important about this litigation, and is this something that you would recommend that other lawyers get involved with?
Darren Miller (19:27):
From a passion perspective, Susan, I cannot think of a more worthy group of folks to protect and help than firefighters. These guys, in of their own rights, are not making a huge amount of money, they are not looking for all kinds of different attention, yet they lay their lives on the line to help and save others.
To think of what they’re going through, and the issues that they’re dealing with, and the fact that they’re dying from these interactions, it’s unbelievable. To know that a lot of this is preventable, or things can be done, and that profit is a huge motive in what we’re talking about, it’s just disgusting to me.
It’s something that we have to change this mindset of corporations with regards to money being the end all and be all with regards to these particular issues.
I’m proud to be involved in this, I’m proud to take on their fights, and to let people know what’s going on, and to bring these issues to the limelight because let’s face it, many firefighters, they… “Hey, I’m okay, I’m good.” But it’s not about them typically. It’s not just about them. It’s about their families, it’s about justice, it’s about doing the right thing, and most importantly, it’s about changing and curing companies actions moving forward in the future.
Because if they’re doing these things now and they’re unguarded, what’s going to happen in the future? Susan, to answer your question very succinctly, this is absolutely the litigation to get involved in as other lawyers. Even if your knowledge is limited, even if you don’t know exactly what’s going on. That’s why we are here, that’s why we’re a cooperative, that’s why we help each other, we educate each other, we teach each other.
We get folks like Greg to come in and show us the ropes because he’s kicked these guys in the ass before from an industry perspective. He knows how to do this. While I’m going to go fight, if Greg can arm me with even more protection to make sure that my clients are better looked out for, that’s why we create these alliances.
I encourage all lawyers who want to do the right thing, who want to get involved, who maybe want to make some money too, this is the type of litigation that you absolutely need to have a part of your docket.
Susan Barfield (22:06):
All the litigations are important, but I mean it’s the firefighters, like you said, in the military, that wake up every day to protect us. The least we could do is turn around and help them in these type of situations, so definitely understand.
Darren Miller (22:22):
Susan Barfield (22:22):
Greg, you mentioned earlier that the MDL litigation was set up. When was that formed?
Gregory Cade (22:31):
This litigation, in general, has been going on for, I don’t know, you can go back to, as I described earlier, the lawsuits in Ohio and West Virginia. That’s probably 6, 7, 8 years ago now. Following that and the lawsuits that resulted from that type of litigation, all got consolidated I think around 2018, I believe.
Before Judge Richard Gergel, and he’s in Charleston, I can’t remember if it’s the Eastern district, I think it is, of South Carolina. He stepped up and said, “Hey, I’m the guy to hear all this litigation is underway around this country.” So thankful to Judge Gergel.
We do have a venue where these matters can be heard all at once, at least on the issues that seem to be common across the country when these lawsuits are being brought, rightfully so.
Susan Barfield (23:32):
You’re saying the MDL was formed in 2018, and if the Bellwether trials are set for 2023, why this large gap, and what does this gap mean for the claimants?
Gregory Cade (23:43):
First, this is very, very complex litigation. There’s a lot of stuff to be determined before you get to a trial. In fact, the trial date only came out, I would think maybe six months ago, although this litigation has going on for some time.
I suspect by the time we get to this June 2023 trial date, we will have more discovery done. But this case is quite expensive. Meaning that you have 31 defendants, I think last I counted, maybe more. We got to determine out of all of these defendants, what did they know? What did they know about this particular chemical, and how did it impact the people? When did they learn about the dangers of this chemical, and a host of other things we need to know.
There are a lot of discovery that’s even underway today. I can’t remember, but there are hundreds, if not a few thousand depositions that have been taken of the corporate people, and the EPA, and government people letting us know about how these chemicals have impacted the government, how these chemicals have impacted clients of all types.
There’s a lot of things to be determined, and the fact that we got a trial date, June 2023, that is great. That trial date is set for a portion of this litigation. The way the case management order is set up, we’re dealing with the type of parties that are part of this litigation and such as the government, and the water systems and such. They are the first round out.
Then, we have another period where Bellweathers are going to be selected, which are underway now being selected, but we don’t have that trial period set up yet for the PI type claims. Firefighters, and people who drank water, and other type people that may have been exposed to these AFFF chemicals.
It’s a very complex case, but we’ve been we going through all the details, and we believe that by the time we get to the 2023 trial, we’ll be fully prepared to go and litigate against these bad actors.
Susan Barfield (26:05):
Can you tell us a little bit about the 3M’s defense attorneys filing the motion for summary judgment, mainly based on the government contractor immunity argument, and why that didn’t work?
Gregory Cade (26:18):
Sure. That’s a portion of a summary judgment, I suspect there’ll be other things as this litigation continues. They’ll try to argue a little bit about, “We had good reason to make these chemicals, because the government told us to make these chemicals.”
Well, government contractor defenses come in any type major litigation because, in fact, the government is often a buyer of these kind of chemicals and they often give these formulas of what they need it for, how it can be used and all of this kind of stuff.
Truthfully, there are government contractor defenses that are real, some are just crap. Obviously, the defendants getting a ruling against them. They didn’t argue very well that these chemicals were in fact a need for the government based on their ordering from them.
The courts basically just determined that you may be able to make some instances where the government ha, put forth a need for this. But that is not the real issue here. And we are going to essentially rule against you, defendant, for the purposes of the fact that you didn’t fully establish that these chemicals are some government ordered concept.
That’s typically the argument with any of these type large litigations where you have a government contractor defense out there.
Susan Barfield (27:43):
Adam, Greg has shared, and Darren, you guys have really provided some great insight about the science and the background about the case.
Adam, I’m interested to learn a little bit, kind of bring it down to… There’s going to be a lot of plaintiffs, as we heard from Greg, that are impacted.
How does D. Miller attract, retain, and keep these plaintiffs well informed throughout this process? Also, just want to understand a little bit about the steps that your team takes as you approach a mass tort project.
Adam Binder (28:17):
Yeah, absolutely Susan. I’ll answer that second part first for you.
Reviewing the science, exactly what we’ve been talking about now. Very, very important. Review the science, review the facts of the case, reach out to the other attorneys in the industry that we trust, to Greg Cade and others, and just pick their brain.
What do they like about the case, what may concern them about the case, and then what kind of cases they would be looking to go after themselves. From there, that will help us put together a baseline criteria for intake. From there, we’re going to go ahead reach out to our trusted vendors, ad agencies in the industry just to kind of get a feel for cost, see what they’re seeing cost per acquisition wise, conversion rate wise, all that good stuff.
We’re going to work with content creators to tailor the ads, most importantly, to the demographic. You want your ads and your messaging to be tailored to them. We’re talking about firefighters and military here with the fire foam litigation.
That’s going to be a much different messaging, much different vibe than that of an abuse case, or something dealing with specifically females, or just something different. You want to make sure that that’s tailored specifically to that demographic. I don’t think I have to tell anybody, a lot of these veterans aren’t quick to jump at these kind of opportunities to join a lawsuit like this.
Most importantly, Susan, is training our intake team to be experts on the topic. They’re not going to be able to answer everything perfectly, that’s why we have an attorney on the floor, but we want our team to sound like experts on the topic, to be personable and friendly with these claimants so that they do feel comfortable not only telling their story, which is very personal, but also entrusting us to actually do what we say we’re going to do, and fight for them.
A bit of a long-winded response there. As far as our process, we are engaging these potential new clients daily. If they’re not answering our calls, that will also include text message and emails as well. These texts and emails, they may include links to documents that we need them to complete, they may include links to an article to teach them a little bit about the litigation.
Once the PNC is qualified, we’re going to send them a signup packet via DocuSign, have our team walk them through it over the phone, answer any questions they may have, and then once the clients retain, we’re going to go over a lengthy intake questionnaire with them just to dig a bit deeper into the facts of their case, gather facility info, all that good stuff.
Most important, a quality review. Before we send the case to Greg Cade, or before we send that case to Darren, we want to go over it with a fine tooth comb, make sure everything adds up, the story makes sense, and that we should have indeed qualified and retained this claimant.
Most importantly, I think you brought up client messaging and communication? There couldn’t be anything more important. From the jump, we are providing our clients with a unique email address as well as a unique phone number. They can message these email addresses and phone numbers, that will fall directly into our system, onto their profile, and then it will ping their caseworker, letting them know that John Doe has sent a message, here it is.
We’re also providing them with numbers, emails for the litigating firms, setting them up with monthly or quarterly newsletters and updates, but also, if there’s no updates every couple months, trying to reengage them and just let them know that we still are working on their case. Anything to touch the client before they call in for an update is where we want to be.
Susan Barfield (32:13):
That’s awesome, being proactive versus being a reactive.
One of the things you said that really stood out to me was that it sounds like you guys are really educating the people that are initially talking to people on the phone about the science and about the litigation, so they’re not just going through a list of questions and check mark got that answer, got that answer. They really understand why behind the questions that they’re asking. That’s awesome.
Adam Binder (32:42):
Yeah, absolutely. The claimants can see right through it. If you were not informed or educated, or you’re pulling answers out of the ether, they know that, they can feel that. So yes ma’am, you want them to be experts.
Susan Barfield (32:54):
Yeah, that’s fantastic.
You mentioned connecting with firms like Greg’s team. Greg, I’d love to hear from you. What stood out about this case, and what is your team focused on currently?
Gregory Cade (33:10):
Yeah, let me just touch on another quick subject if you will, Susan, then I’ll answered that question.
I did want to mention earlier that one good thing about this particular litigation has been going on for some time, and we have worked real hard to push this thing to a trial. I can tell you that because we’ve done this, we do have lots of discussions on the way with resolution, meaning that we have several defendants talking in terms of… Want to resolve this case, which when you want to enter into a case like this, some firms look at this as an investment opportunity.
This case here, headed toward a trial, will likely get to a global resolution sooner rather than later. We have a mediator selected, even. At the end of the day, if you are out there looking and trying to figure out what case makes sense for you when you’re working with Darren or his group, this case here probably makes a lot of sense from that perspective because maybe a shorter run for your investment to get to the back end of this case when the number of these cases out here in the mask world typically take a lot longer.
You asked me a little bit about why I think this case is a good looking case, or what do I think about it? Well, it’s a little bit of what Darren said earlier. These are firefighters, first of all. These are other people who protected ourselves, and our families, and such. These guys are put in harm’s way every day, all day.
They are required to work with a chemical that is intended to suppress a flame in the very business of what they’re in, and yet they find out that these chemicals are in fact carcinogens. They can cause cancer, and can cause all kind of health claims and whatnot while being told, “These are okay chemicals, they’re safe, you can use them as part of your job, so just use them and shut up.” Think about that.
That’s a terrible thing to do to a particular person. It’s almost the same as telling the person he can wake up every morning, drink water from this particular fountain and not tell him that this fountain is laden with some dangerous chemical that can kill him as well.
By and large, that’s a very important thing about these cases. We think that we’re doing something for a group of people who we love and cherish, and hopefully at the end of the day, we get some form of resolution that will hopefully make them whole again.
Darren Miller (35:49):
Susan, the other thing to add to that too is that because again, Greg and the other aggressive litigators involved have moved this thing along so quickly, now is the time for the firefighters to really establish their justice, and really to figure out what their damage models are to get on top of this as soon as possible.
Because again, as Greg mentioned, now is the time to put all these details together and get in the front of the line as opposed to waiting until later, and crossing your finger and hoping that things work out the right way.
Susan Barfield (36:27):
Yeah, for sure.
Adam, starting to kind of wrap things up, what ways do you see law firms changing their approach to class action cases?
Adam Binder (36:39):
Wow, that’s a fantastic question. What I’m seeing first and foremost, Susan, is it’s all about relationships now. It is not what is everyone else doing, what is everyone else talking about, what are they selling the hardest? It is about who can I trust the most, what relationships have I built, what are they going after? That’s for both vendors, ad agencies, as well as co-counsel and litigating firms.
I’m seeing a much more slow, deliberate approach to jumping in and not just following the crowd. Really, really digging deep and first and foremost, looking at relationships to build as opposed to a return on investment.
Also, I’m seeing a lot of high tech approach. We’re seeing a huge amount of AI-driven systems, automated driven intake, predictive learning AI that knows what messaging to go to this person versus the next, just a really big explosion of tech in the industry, and I think it’s been great.
Maybe most importantly is the importance of data and reporting. Everybody wants to talk about cost per acquisition, that’s important, but that’s only one drop in the bucket. We want to see and have visibility into everything.
Not only acquisition costs, but conversion rates. How many retainers are we sending out digitally versus how many we’re physically mailing out? How many claimants are telling your intake specialists that they’re not interested after they filled out a form?
Every single piece of data that we can analyze, we want to analyze it because it’s going to give us insight into either our current docket and performance, or help us make the right decision moving forward into something new.
Susan Barfield (38:30):
Exactly. Having the data at your fingertips certainly helps make the decisions and every tort’s different. What works on one, that same process, as you, know isn’t going to work on another. Great insight for sure.
Let’s see. Greg, back to you. I wanted to find out what frequent problems do you encounter when it comes to managing the client expectations in a case with such a large number of plaintiffs?
Gregory Cade (39:03):
I try to tell every client we take in, please be patient. It’s probably more on us than is on you right now. We understand that you or your family members affected by say these chemicals ’cause they hurt you in some way or another. But this is very complex stuff. This is very expensive stuff. These are matters that we have to really careful in the court where we have to explain things where people can understand.
Darren said earlier, I’m pretty good at trying to make this stuff seem kind of a elementary understanding, but it’s very, very complex. It does take a person with my background to be able to decipher this information, and put it out there in the world so that you can understand what’s going on.
I try to do that with all our clients. I explain to them the risky part of trying to present a case of this nature to the courts, but we also talk in terms of our success in doing this type of stuff. We are the firms that you want to hire to try to sure get to the back end of this.
Mostly when I put that speech out there before clients and just whoever’s on our team, they understand it is what it is. It’s tough, complex litigation. But we feel good about it, we know that we’ll come to a positive end at some stage here, so we are confident that we’re moving in the right direction to reach what they want to get out of this matter.
Susan Barfield (40:47):
It sounds like from Adam’s point, it’s you got to have the right messaging, from Darren it’s the right communication speaking to them, and what you just said is setting the right expectation up front.
Gregory Cade (40:57):
Darren Miller (40:58):
Susan Barfield (40:59):
Darren, for the lawyers that have additional questions and want to get more involved in this litigation, what do you tell them and what if they don’t know how to even get involved?
Darren Miller (41:09):
Susan, what I tell them is very simple. I tell them, “Look, life is very short. Your legal life is even shorter, so get involved. Stop making excuses, and start making things happen. Find projects that you’re passionate about and ask questions. Get your feet wet, take a chance. And when you get the opportunity to work with other lawyers who feel equally passionate about certain things that are not just going to line people’s pockets, but make a difference, make society as a whole better, man, it provides you so much satisfaction.”
I tell every lawyer, as related to certain cases, there’s some that I just feel so passionate about, so strongly about and this is absolutely one of those particular cases. We’re doing the right thing for the right purposes against the right defendants to get to the right result to help society at large. What else do you want?
Again, that’s what we’ve done. We make it as easy as possible to teach people, show people. Regardless if you go with us or whoever, get involved. We give the knowledge to people out there so that they can change society for the better and just bring a better situation for society at large.
Susan Barfield (42:40):
One thing I’ve noticed about you, Darren, is there’s a lot of attorneys, it’s all secretive. They don’t want to tell them who they’re working with or what they’re doing, whereas you, it’s an open book. It’s like, man, if you want to get involved, here’s what you do. Here are the, I don’t like to say vendors, here are the partners to work with, and this is how you do it.
Like you said, you’re in this field to help people and to seek justice, so you might as well pick a project that you’re passionate about.
Darren Miller (43:04):
Susan, I just don’t understand that there’s so many people that, “Oh my gosh, if I tell anyone how successful you can be and how to get things to a better place quicker that it’s going to hurt them.” No, not, it rises the tide.
Everyone gets better when you teach people. For me, I found that other lawyers who are more successful reach out, gravitate towards you. You get to learn more, you teach more, and they will share with you when you share with them. So I love it, I’m going to keep doing it.
Susan Barfield (43:35):
That’s right. Okay, last question. What would a successful resolution look like in this case? Greg, you want to start us off?
Gregory Cade (43:47):
That is one of those most objective type questions that… Well, first of all, we have made the firefighter community whole. These people who put their lives on the line, and in doing so, got cancer and these health problems that obviously in many instances is life threatening.
These people are made whole as it relates to the communities that have been impacted by these chemicals, or cities, whatever. The idea that we earn enough money for these cities and for these water systems where they don’t have to send dangerous water to households where people are continuing to drink these toxic substances and such, or taking showers in it and whatnot.
Overall, what happens with all of this, we recover enough money and that makes the whole world a better place again, because that’s how I perceive AFFF chemicals. I think this chemical has been so problematic on society as a whole that we get rid of it completely. We make the people and the cities and the water system hold again, and these companies stop making this nonsense chemical or they just ban it, whatever they normally do, but get rid of this crap so that we can take care of our families from here on out. That’s essentially how I see it.
Susan Barfield (45:17):
All right, sure.
Darren Miller (45:17):
If I would just add slightly to that is for me, it’s changing the conduct of corporations and how they view the responsibilities to society at large. I know we’re going to knock them out. I know we’re going to recover a bunch of money for them, but I just want other corporations to understand, look, you can’t make the decisions the way you’ve always done it.
Do the right things and things will work out for you. If not, we are going to come down on you like a ton of bricks. The quicker they learn that, the better it’s going to be for everybody across the side.
Gregory Cade (45:53):
Let me add to that right there if you don’t mind, Susan.
The modern way of getting the attention of corporations when they know they’re doing things wrong and bad is doing exactly what we’re doing. You bring lawsuits, you don’t get heard out there just speaking in the back room. You bring the lawsuit. I tell everybody.
Some people say, “Greg, should I file a lawsuit?” Yeah, that’s what you do. You have to file a lawsuit to be heard. You have to go to court to be heard. Being an advocate of the courtroom, as well as Darren, that’s what we do.
At the end of the day, you bring the lawsuit, you tell a corporation, “Look, you can try to think you’re big and bad, and you got so much money, you’re going to run us in the ground and all that kind of stuff. That doesn’t work anymore.”
It never really worked with us, I’ll be honest with you. I’ve told a lot of corporations or corporate people to their face, “Guys, leave that story alone. That’s not going to work. We entered this game knowing that you would say that to me, so it’s not going to work.”
I really don’t get that too much. I normally get a bottle of wine at Christmastime and say, “Hey, Greg, glad that I made your friend after we won a pretty significant matter against that corporation.” That’s how it works.
Susan Barfield (47:12):
That’s right. Adam, anything you would like to share?
Adam Binder (47:16):
Nothing to add, I couldn’t have said it better. Doing right by the claimants and keeping these corporations from continuing to do it in the future.
Gregory Cade (47:24):
Susan Barfield (47:25):
Well, I learned a ton.
Greg, thank you so much for sharing all of the background and the science about this litigation. Adam and Darren, of course, it’s a pleasure to have you guys on.
Again, your passion always comes through, Darren. It gets me pumped up and fired up. Makes me excited about what I do.
Anyway, thank you all for joining today and just taking the time to share the insights, updates about this litigation. I know there’s a lot of attorneys, we get asked a lot of questions, and so I’m just glad to have the experts on that can share all the information about it.
Thank you guys, really appreciate it.
Adam Binder (48:04):
Gregory Cade (48:04):
Darren Miller (48:06):
Thank you. Susan. Thank you for putting this together. Working with you always is fantastic and thank you, most importantly, for helping us get the word out.
Susan Barfield (48:14):
That’s right. Absolutely. Happy to.
Darren Miller (48:16):