Toxic torts are legal cases related to the injuries caused by the negligence of chemical manufacturers, distributors, or users of toxic chemicals. In a toxic tort, the plaintiffs are those people injured by exposure to a toxic substance, and the defendants are those whose negligence caused the injury.
Toxic substances recently implicated in toxic tort cases include:
- Hard metals
- Cleaning compounds
They may also include any number of medical products, pesticides, fertilizers, toxic waste dumped or spewed by chemical plants, nuclear radiation, and any toxic contamination of food or water. They can be present in the workplace, the home, or the environment. New chemicals with unanticipated toxicities are being identified all the time, and user reports of side effects are a crucial part of the discovery of unknown or unreported side effects. If you suspect you have been harmed by a toxic chemical, it is important that you report the effect to local authorities or to a toxic tort attorney who may be able to help you.
Toxic tort cases are often very difficult to prove. In order to be successful, a lawyer making a toxic tort case must prove:
- A link between a specific injury and a specific chemical
- The specific actions of the defendant which led to the dangerous exposure that caused the injury
In order to prove these facts, lawyers must rely on the expert testimony of scientific and medical experts. In the case of a workplace toxic tort, these are usually limited to experts on the chemicals involved and their bioreactivity. Testing will be conducted in the workplace to determine the concentrations of chemicals in the air. In the case of environmental toxic tort, the experts may also include geologists, hydrologists, meteorologists, and others. Testing will have to be done to determine the presence of chemicals in the air, soil, groundwater, etc, and to establish a pathway by which the chemical traveled from the defendant’s control to the plaintiff’s body. It can take years to gather sufficient evidence to successfully conclude a toxic tort case. Added to the years it may take for injuries from toxic exposure to become evident, the time frame for toxic tort cases can be decades.
Because of the expense inherent in proving the facts of the case, toxic torts are often run as class-action lawsuits in which the hundreds and sometimes thousands of people harmed by the negligence of the defendant(s) combine their lawsuits into a single suit against the toxic polluters. In this type of case, the suit will be for a large sum of money that will be distributed following a favorable verdict.
Despite their difficulty, toxic tort cases are often worth pursuing for a number of reasons:
- The receipt of compensation for:
- Pain and suffering
- Medical expenses
- Emotional duress
- Loss of enjoyment of life
- Death of a loved one
- The protection of communities by forcing polluters to stop their health-damaging activities
- The punishing of polluters with huge monetary losses
Overall, the benefit of a toxic tort suit extends far beyond the benefits that come to any given plaintiff or to the body of plaintiffs as a whole. Instead, the benefit extends to all of us in the form of a cleaner environment, and a greater reluctance among corporations that deal with chemicals to treat those chemicals carelessly. Toxic torts are a way of keeping corporations honest and respectful toward the communities that surround their facilities.
In recognition of this community benefit, some localities have gone beyond the Environmental Protection Agency’s limited watchdog status to enact their own legislation, such as California’s 1986 Proposition 65, which forces the State of California to identify toxic chemicals, and all corporations or personal entities who employ these substances to post clear warnings on all premises where these chemicals are in use.
Source : Personal Injury