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Laura Hammargren, 3M
Laura Hammargren, 3M

The POWER 30: Laura Hammargren

It’s been about three years since 3M settled PFAS claims with the state of Minnesota, paying $85 million in damages for water pollution from the chemicals and bringing the issue to most Minnesotans’ attention.

More cases are underway. PFAS stands for a group of chemicals and materials that include oil, water, temperature, chemical and fire resistance, as well as electrical insulating properties.

There are thousands of multidistrict litigation cases over different products and about 200 non-MDL cases in federal and state court.

That’s where Laura Hammargren, assistant general counsel and director of enterprise risk management litigation at 3M, steps in to handle 3M’s non-MDL cases. From her perspective, the PFAS litigation is about property damages to municipalities and the like over the water system. Trials will likely increase in 2023, she said.

As a result of its phase-out decision in May 2000, the company no longer makes certain PFAS compounds, including PFOA, PFOS, PFHxS and their precursor compounds. 3M states on its site that there is no consistent proof that PFAS causes harm in people at current or past levels.

The company is also embroiled in claims of defective military ear plugs and fraudulent N95 masks, after ramping up mask production when the pandemic hit.

In January 2020, 3M dealt with little or no trademark litigation relating to 3M-branded N95 respirators. By October 2020, the company had received more than 4,000 complaints of fraud in connection with the sale or distribution of N95 respirators, briefed hundreds of law enforcement agents and filed 18 trademark-infringement lawsuits against bad actors claiming to be affiliated with 3M.

Strategy and the interests of the company are priorities as an in-house counsel, Hammargren said. Evaluating the lasting effects of a case and how it will affect other parts of the company is a “different mentality,” she continued.

3M offers a challenging, complex and nationwide practice, Hammargren said. “You can’t get that everywhere.”