Frequently Asked Questions

  1. Why was the Notice issued?
  2. What is this lawsuit about?
  3. What is a class action?
  4. Why is there a settlement?
  5. How do I know whether I am part of the settlement?
  6. Are there exceptions to being included?
  7. What does the settlement provide?
  8. I am a Sludge Application Settlement Subclass Member. How much will my payment be?
  9. How do I get a payment from the settlement?
  10. When would I get my settlement payment?
  11. What rights am I giving up if I stay in the Class and/or Sludge Application Settlement Subclass?
  12. What are the Released Claims?
  13. Do I have a lawyer in this case?
  14. How will the lawyers be paid?
  15. How do I get out of the settlement?
  16. If I exclude myself, can I still get a payment from this settlement?
  17. If I do not exclude myself, can I sue the Defendants for the same legal claims later?
  18. How do I tell the Court that I do not like the settlement?
  19. May I come to Court to speak about my objection?
  20. What is the difference between objecting to the settlement and asking to be excluded from it?
  21. When and where will the Court decide whether to approve the settlement?
  22. Do I have to come to the hearing?
  23. May I speak at the hearing?
  24. What happens if I do nothing at all?
  25. How do I get more information?
  26. WHY WAS MY CLAIM FORM DENIED?
  1. Why was the Notice issued?

    A court authorized the Notice because you have a right to know about the proposed settlement of this class action lawsuit and about all of your options before the Court decides whether to grant final approval to the settlement. This Notice explains the lawsuit, the settlement, your legal rights, what benefits are available, and who can get them.

    The Honorable Glenn Thompson, presiding by appointment as a Special Circuit Judge of the Circuit Court of Morgan County, Alabama, is overseeing this class action. The case is known as James St. John, Jr. v. 3M Company, Case No. CV-02-000408 (the “Litigation”). The people and entities that filed this lawsuit are called the “Plaintiffs” and the entities they sued, 3M Company, Daikin America, Inc., Dyneon, LLC, Synagro WWT, Inc., Synagro South, LLC, Toray Fluorofibers (America), Inc., BFI Waste Systems of Alabama, LLC, BFI Waste Systems of North America, LLC, The City of Decatur, Alabama, and Morgan County, Alabama, are called the “Defendants.”

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  2. What is this lawsuit about?

    The Plaintiffs allege that the Defendants polluted the Tennessee River and the soil, groundwater, surface water, sediment, air, and fish by discharging certain PFAS, including PFOA and PFOS, into the Tennessee River and the surrounding areas. The Defendants deny all of the claims made in the lawsuit.

    

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  3. What is a class action?

    In a class action, one or more people or entities called Class Representatives (in this case, John Scherff, Kimberly Scherff, Darden Bridgeforth & Sons Land Company, and G.T. Hamilton) sue on behalf of other people and entities with similar claims. Together, the people and entities included in the class action are called a Class or Class Members. One court resolves the issues for all Class Members, except for those who exclude themselves from the Class.

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  4. Why is there a settlement?

    The Court did not decide in favor of the Plaintiffs or Defendants. Instead, the Plaintiffs and Defendants agreed to a settlement. This way, they avoid the cost and burden of a trial and the people and entities affected can get benefits. The Class Representatives and their attorneys think the settlement is best for all Class Members.

    

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  5. How do I know whether I am part of the settlement?

    The settlement defines “Class Members” as “all Persons that have owned, occupied, otherwise had an ownership or possessory interest (including through a lease, easement, or joint or common tenancy) in, resided at, maintained a business of any kind at, worked at, or recreated on any real property (including the Tennessee River, its tributaries, and all other bodies of water) located in Morgan County, Lawrence County, Franklin County, Limestone County, Colbert County, or Lauderdale County, Alabama at any time between April 21, 2003, and December 17, 2021.

    The settlement also includes a “Subclass” defined below.

    Sludge Application Settlement Subclass: All Class Members that, as of December 17, 2021, own, occupy, or have an ownership or possessory interest (including through a lease, easement, or joint or common tenancy) in real property in Morgan County, Lawrence County, Franklin County, or Limestone County, Alabama on which biosolids containing PFAS compounds were applied at any time. 

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  6. Are there exceptions to being included?

    Yes. The settlement does not include the Defendants, counsel for any of the parties, or the Judge to whom this case is assigned. Also, the Sludge Application Settlement Subclass does not include all persons or entities that properly execute and timely file a request for exclusion.

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  7. What does the settlement provide?

    The Settlement provides two forms of relief:

    Please note that the Settlement only provides monetary compensation to Members of the Sludge Application Subclass.

    First, Class Members will receive equitable relief in the form of the Court requiring Defendants (except Synagro WWT, Inc., and Synagro South, LLC) to provide certain investigation, remediation, and monitoring of sites, soils, basins, ponds, groundwater, and fish. More details about the equitable relief are described in Section 2 of the Class Settlement Agreement, available at www.StJohnSettlement.com.

    Second, Sludge Application Settlement Subclass Members will receive monetary compensation. Defendants (except BFI Waste Systems of Alabama, LLC, BFI Waste Systems of North America, LLC, Dyneon, LLC, the City of Decatur, and Morgan County, Alabama) have agreed to pay $5,000,000 (minus $1,000 for every acre subject to a timely and valid Opt Out request by a Sludge Application Settlement Subclass Member) to create a Sludge Application Settlement Fund. After deducting the costs of administration, the net Sludge Application Settlement Fund will be used to make payments to Sludge Application Settlement Subclass Members who submit valid Claim Forms.

    Again, please note that Class Members will not receive monetary compensation unless they are also Sludge Application Settlement Subclass Members.

    

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  8. I am a Sludge Application Settlement Subclass Member. How much will my payment be?

    Payment amounts will be calculated and distributed pro rata (proportionally) based on the total number of relevant acres currently (as of December 17, 2021) owned or possessed by Sludge Application Settlement Subclass Members who submit a valid Claim Form, provided, however, that to the extent that more than one Sludge Application Settlement Subclass Member submits a timely and valid claim for the same property, said claimant payment shall be divided among those claimants as follows: (i) if all such claimants are title owners, each shall receive an equal share of the payment; (ii) if all such claimants are not title owners, each shall receive an equal share of the payment; and (iii) if at least one such claimant is a title owner and at least one such claimant is not a title owner, seventy-five percent of the claimant payment will go to the title owner (or in equal shares to the title owners), and twenty-five percent of the claimant payment will go to the non-title owner (or in equal shares to the non-title owners).

    If the Sludge Application Settlement Fund is not completely expended after all valid claims are paid, the Parties will attempt to reach an agreement on how to distribute the remaining funds. If the Parties are unable to reach agreement, the Court will determine how to distribute the remainder. 


    

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  9. How do I get a payment from the settlement?

    If you are a Sludge Application Settlement Subclass Member, you must complete and submit a Claim Form by
    May 5, 2022. Claim Forms may be submitted online at www.StJohnSettlement.com or printed from the website and mailed to the Settlement Administrator at the address on the form. Claim Forms are also available by email at  info@StJohnSettlement.com, or by writing to the Settlement Administrator, St. John v. 3M Company Settlement Administrator, P.O. Box 43502, Providence, RI 02940-3502.

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  10. When would I get my settlement payment?

    The settlement fund was fully distributed on August 4, 2022.  Only members of the Sludge Application Settlement Subclass, who filed a valid claim form by May 5, 2022, were eligible to receive a check.  Class Members and non-class members who did not provide proof they should be a members of the Sludge Application Settlement Subclass were not mailed a check and are not eligible to receive a payment in this settlement; James St. John, Jr. v. 3M Company.

    

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  11. What rights am I giving up if I stay in the Class and/or Sludge Application Settlement Subclass?

    Unless you exclude yourself, you are staying in the Class and/or the Sludge Application Settlement Subclass. If the settlement is approved and becomes final, all of the Court’s orders will apply to you and legally bind you. You won’t be able to sue, continue to sue, or be part of any other lawsuit against any of the Defendants or the Released Parties (see next question) about the claims and rights resolved and released by this settlement, except to the limited extent that you participate in the settlement of an action involving persons who received water from the West-Morgan East-Lawrence Water Authority pending in the United States District Court for the Northern District of Alabama and captioned Lindsey, et al. v. 3M Company, et al. (“Lindsey settlement”). The claims and rights you are giving up are called Released Claims. As explained in section 12, you cannot exclude yourself from the settlement and release of claims for equitable relief, and you will give up those claims if the settlement is approved by the Court. 

    

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  12. What are the Released Claims?

    Released ClaimsIf and when the settlement becomes final, Class Members will release and forever discharge Defendants from each and every claim, demand, right, and cause of action of any kind for any type of relief (including but not limited to compensatory damages, mental-anguish damages, property damages, consequential damages, incidental damages, statutory damages, punitive or exemplary damages, disgorgement, restitution, penalties, injunctive relief, declaratory relief, attorneys’ fees, court costs, and expenses)—except the two types of claims discussed below—that the Class Members have or could have asserted against the Released Parties arising out of or relating in any way to the presence of or exposure to PFAS (i) in the Tennessee River or its tributaries, in Morgan County, Lawrence County, Franklin County, Limestone County, Colbert County, or Lauderdale County, Alabama, (ii) from or at sites owned or operated by the Defendants, or (iii) in the soil, groundwater, surface water, pore water, drinking water, well water, waste water, treated water, sludge, sediment, air, and/or fish or other biota, or any other environmental media, whether asserted or not, accrued or not, known or not, matured or not, contingent or not, manifested or not, patent or latent, open or concealed, or past, present, or future (“Released Claims”). Released Claims include all claims, including those for future damages, arising out of any release of PFAS into the environment as a result of the past or continuing operations of the Defendants or the remediation efforts that are in compliance with the Interim Consent Decree issued by the Alabama Department of Environmental Management and the settlement. Excluded from the definition of Released Claims are claims for concrete, independent harms caused by future conduct that is not related to the following: (a) the prior release, disposal, or use of PFAS, (b) the ordinary course of future operations of the Defendants, or (c) the obligations imposed on the Defendants in the Interim Consent Decree and the settlement.

    Two Types of Claims Excepted from the ReleaseThe two types of claims specifically excepted from the definition of Released Claims are: (1) claims for manifest personal injury to a Class Member beyond the presence of PFAS in their body; and (2) claims for monetary relief (for instance, claims you have for monetary damages) by Class Members (including Sludge Application Settlement Class Members) that exclude themselves from the settlement of those claims.

    In other words, unless you exclude yourself from the settlement of claims for monetary relief not involving manifest personal injury, those claims will be released and you will be prevented from suing Defendants again in the future for those claims. You cannot exclude yourself from the settlement and release of claims for equitable relief.

    More details about the claims you will be releasing are described in Section 4 of the Class Settlement Agreement, available at www.StJohnSettlement.com. If too many persons opt out of the settlement, the Defendants retain the right to withdraw from the entire settlement.


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  13. Do I have a lawyer in this case?

    Yes. Judge Thompson appointed the law firms of Hare Wynn Newell & Newton, LLP, and Alexander, Corder & Shelly, P.C., to represent you and other Class Members as “Class Counsel” and “Sludge Application Settlement Subclass Counsel.” These law firms and their lawyers are experienced in handling similar cases. You will not be charged for these lawyers. If you want to be represented by your own lawyer, you may hire one at your own expense.

    

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  14. How will the lawyers be paid?

    Class Counsel will ask the Court for an award of attorneys’ fees and expenses of up to $51,000,000. Counsel may ask for, or the Court may award less than these amounts. If approved, attorneys’ fees and expenses will be paid by Defendants and will not be deducted from the Sludge Application Settlement Fund. A Petition for Approval of Fees and Expenses will be filed no later than January 14, 2022, and will be posted on the settlement website for Class Members to review.

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  15. How do I get out of the settlement?

    If you want to keep the right to sue or continue to sue the Defendants or the Released Parties about the claims for monetary relief that are being released in the settlement if it is finally approved, you must take steps to get out of the settlement. This is called excluding yourself from or opting out of the settlement. You may exclude yourself from the settlement only with respect to the claims for monetary relief being settled and released. You may not exclude yourself from the settlement and release of claims for declaratory and injunctive relief (for instance, for remediation and monitoring of sites, soils, basins, ponds, groundwater, and fish).

    To exclude yourself from the settlement of claims for monetary relief (including damages), you must submit a written request for exclusion. Your request for exclusion must include: (1) your name, current address, and telephone number; (2) a statement of the facts that make you a Class Member (and, if applicable, a Sludge Application Settlement Subclass Member); (3) a statement requesting exclusion from the Class or Sludge Application Settlement Subclass as certified under Rule 23(b)(3); and (4) your signature. Your Opt Out request for exclusion must be mailed to the Settlement Administrator at the address below so it is postmarked by March 17, 2022

    St. John v. 3M Company Settlement Administrator

    P.O. Box 43502

    Providence, RI 02940-3502



    

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  16. If I exclude myself, can I still get a payment from this settlement?

    No. If you exclude yourself, you are telling the Court that you don’t want to be part of the settlement. You can only get a payment if you stay in the settlement, are a Sludge Application Settlement Subclass Member, and submit a valid Claim Form.

    

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  17. If I do not exclude myself, can I sue the Defendants for the same legal claims later?

    Unless you exclude yourself, you are giving up the right to sue the Defendants and the Released Parties for the claims that this settlement resolves and releases. You must exclude yourself from this Litigation to start or continue with your own lawsuit or be part of any other lawsuit against the Defendants or any of the Released Parties, except to the extent you participate in the Lindsey settlement. Again, you can exclude yourself from the settlement of claims for monetary relief (for instance, claims you may have for money damages) but you cannot exclude yourself from the settlement of claims for equitable relief (for instance, those seeking declaratory and injunctive relief including investigation, remediation, and monitoring of sites, soils, basins, ponds, groundwater, and fish). This means that you can exclude yourself from giving up the Released Claims affecting claims for monetary relief, but you cannot exclude yourself from giving up the Released Claims affecting claims for equitable relief. Any exclusion request will be honored to the full extent possible under the terms of the settlement agreement and subject to any rulings by the Court.

    

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  18. How do I tell the Court that I do not like the settlement?

    If you are a Class Member, you can object to the settlement if you do not like it or a portion of it. You can give reasons why you think the Court should not approve it. The Court will consider your views. Your objection must include: (1) your name, current address, and telephone number; (2) a statement of the facts that make you a Class Member; (3) a statement describing all of your challenges to the settlement and the reasons for those objections; (4) all of the papers and evidence you intend to submit in support of those challenges; (5) a statement of whether you intend to appear and speak at the Fairness Hearing; (6) your signature; (7) three dates at least ten days before the Fairness Hearing on which you will be available to be deposed by lawyers for the Parties; (8) the caption of each case in which you or your lawyer has objected to a class action settlement within the five years preceding the date of the filing of the objection in this case and a copy of all orders related to or ruling upon those objections; and (9) all agreements that relate to the objection in this case or the process of objecting, whether written or verbal, between or among you, your lawyer, and/or any other person or entity.

    Your written objection must be filed with the Court by March 17, 2022 and mailed to Class Counsel and counsel for Defendants.  Please read the Notice located on the Case Docuemnts page of this website for a full list of the addresses for the Court, Class Counsel, and counsel for Defendants.


    

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  19. May I come to Court to speak about my objection?

    Yes. You or your attorney may speak at the Fairness Hearing about your objection. To do so, you must include a statement in your objection indicating that you or your attorney intend to appear at the Fairness Hearing

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  20. What is the difference between objecting to the settlement and asking to be excluded from it?

    Objecting is simply telling the Court that you don’t like something about the settlement. Excluding yourself is telling the Court that you don’t want to be part of the settlement.

    The Court’s Fairness Hearing

    The Court will hold a hearing to decide whether to approve the settlement. You may attend and you may ask to speak, but you don’t have to.

    

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  21. When and where will the Court decide whether to approve the settlement?

    The Court held a Fairness Hearing at 1:30 p.m. on April 21, 2022, in Courtroom 444 at the Morgan County Courthouse, 302 Lee St., NE, 4th floor, Decatur, Alabama 35601. At this hearing, the Court will consider whether the settlement is fair, reasonable, and adequate. It will also consider whether to approve Class Counsel’s request for an award of attorneys’ fees and costs. If there are objections, the Court will consider them. Judge Thompson will listen to people who have asked to speak at the hearing (see Question 19 above). After the hearing, the Court will decide whether to approve the settlement. THIS SETTLEMENT WAS APPROVED.

    

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  22. Do I have to come to the hearing?

    No. Class Counsel will answer any questions Judge Thompson may have. However, you are welcome to come to the hearing at your own expense. If you send an objection, you do not have to come to court to talk about it. As long as you mailed your written objection on time, the Court will consider it. You may also pay your own lawyer to attend, but it is not necessary.

    

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  23. May I speak at the hearing?

    Yes. You may ask the Court for permission to speak at the Fairness Hearing (see Question 19 above).

    

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  24. What happens if I do nothing at all?

    If you are Class Member and you do nothing, you will give up the rights explained in Question 11, including your right to start a lawsuit, continue with a lawsuit, or be part of any other lawsuit against the Defendants and the Released Parties about the claims resolved and released by this settlement other than participation in the Lindsey settlement. If you are a Sludge Application Settlement Subclass Member and do not submit a Claim, you will not receive a payment from the settlement.

    

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  25. How do I get more information?

    The Notice summarizes the proposed settlement. Complete details are provided in the Class Settlement Agreement. The Class Settlement Agreement and other related documents are available on the CAse Documents page ion this website. Additional information is also avail by emailing the Settlement Administrator at  info@StJohnSettlement.com, or by writing to St. John v. 3M Company Settlement Administrator, P.O. Box 43502, Providence, RI 02940-3502. Publicly-filed documents can also be obtained by visiting the office of the Clerk of the Circuit Court of Morgan County, Alabama, or reviewing the Court’s online docket.

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  26. WHY WAS MY CLAIM FORM DENIED?

    Your Claim Form  in the James St. John, Jr. v. 3M Company settlement has been determined to be denied because you are not a member of the Sludge Application Subclass. The “Sludge Application Subclass” is defined as those who, on December 17, 2021, had an ownership or possessory interest in real property on which biosolids containing “PFAS” compounds were applied. Your claim does not allege that any “biosolids” (also called “sludge”) containing “PFAS” compounds were applied to your property.

    Here is some additional information for context. Beginning in the early 1990s, through 2008, the Synagro company took sludge from Decatur Utilities (“DU”) and used it to compound a fertilizer product. According to Synagro’s records, Synagro applied that sludge to approximately 5,000 acres of farm and pasture land. We now know that the DU sludge used by Synagro contained “PFAS” chemicals. Based upon their investigations, Class Counsel believe that the current owners (and/or lessees) of those 5,000 acres constitute the entire “Sludge Application Subclass.” According to Synagro’s records, most of those 5,000 acres are in Lawrence County, Alabama, and no Synagro sludge from DU was ever applied to any land in Lauderdale, Colbert, or Franklin Counties. The Settlement Administrator has compared your submitted information to the Synagro records and the records do not indicate that Synagro sludge obtained from DU was applied to the property address that you submitted.  In addition, all late filed claims, postmarked after May 5, 2022, were denied. 

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