Toxic Tort Claims
Toxic tort claims are typically brought under a theory of negligence. To recover a monetary award, you must show that you were exposed to a toxic substance, that the substance was dangerous, and that your exposure to the substance caused you some type of injury. In many instances, the presence of toxic substances exposes large numbers of people to risk. Consequently, toxic tort claims are often filed as class action lawsuits.
The most common types of toxic tort claims involve:
- Exposure to hazardous materials on the job
- Industrial spills or toxins affecting adjacent or nearby landowners
- Exposure to toxins in consumer products, such as cleansers, pesticides or other household chemicals
- Exposure to toxic mold in the home or at work
Potential Defendants in a Toxic Tort Claim
You can be challenged to determine who is responsible for your injuries in a toxic tort claim, especially if you live near an industrial park. The practice, in most toxic tort cases, is to name as defendants any party with a meaningful link to the substance that has caused you harm. This can include the developer or manufacturer of the toxic substance, as well as any entity that stored or transported the substance. It’s also common to owners of property where you were exposed, if the location was other than on your own property.
The Difficulties Inherent in a Toxic Tort Claim
Toxic tort claims pose a number of serious challenges, from a legal perspective. The injuries typically suffered usually don’t appear for some period of time, particularly if your exposure is at a low level. The cumulative effect of exposure may take years to take the form of serious health problems. By then, much of the evidence supporting your claim may be gone, or may be difficult to obtain. In addition, the more time that elapses between your exposure and your injury, the more likely that defense attorneys will try to point to other intervening factors to explain your condition.
Toxic tort claims also require a heavy reliance on scientific data and opinion. Contrary to popular assumption, scientific conclusions can change over time. Toxic tort claims often become battlegrounds for experts on both sides of an issue. Success may not depend on facts, but on who’s opinion carries more weight.
Some Examples of Toxic Tort Claims
In the last couple decades, many successful toxic tort claims have been filed alleging injuries caused by exposure to:
- Pharmaceutical products, including Vioxx and Prozac
- Consumer products, from lead-based paint exposure and black mold to formaldehyde and pesticides
- Asbestos, leading to asbestosis or mesothelioma
- Benzene, resulting in increased risk of cancer
- PCBs, used in coolant fluids, and known to cause cancer in animals
- Silica, used in the production of glass, and as an additive in foods and drugs