What Is a Toxic Tort?
Although the term “toxic tort” is used by lawyers who practice in this area, and even occasionally by the media, many people do not truly understand what it means. Simply put, a toxic tort is a form of wrongdoing – either intentional or negligent – which causes injury or property damage due to exposure to a toxic substance. Toxic torts can take many forms, from large-scale chemical spills, to employee actions, to individual injuries. Passen & Powell is proud to represent individuals and families who have been injured or killed by toxic substances.
Depending on the type of injury, a toxic tort case can be grounded in any of a wide variety of civil torts, including intentional torts, simple negligence, professional negligence, and products liability. Toxic tort cases can also be based on federal or state statutes. For example, the Occupational Health and Safety Act (OSHA), a federal statute, requires employers to keep their workers safe from dangerous substances.
Types of Toxins Involved
The types of toxic tort cases vary greatly, as there is seemingly no end to the variety of toxins to which people can be exposed in modern life. The classic examples – asbestos in the workplace, a chemical spill leaching into residential groundwater – are really only the beginning. Indeed, even the highly-publicized tobacco litigation is made up of toxic tort claims, as these suits allege that tobacco is a toxin to which smokers were wrongfully exposed.
Among the types of toxic torts which have emerged in recent years are cases involving exposure to the following:
- Heavy metals
- Emissions from oil and other recycling
- Unsafe chemicals in drinking water (generally due to chemical runoff from manufacturing)
- Emissions from refineries
- Radioactive and radiographic chemicals
- Gasoline or its unsafe components
- Chemicals released in railroad accidents
- Chinese drywall, which releases sulfur fumes
- Mold contamination
- Toxins or contaminants in medications
- Lead paint
Forms of Toxic Tort Litigation
Toxic tort cases can take many forms. The form most commonly known is the class-action or mass-actions law suit: many individuals who were harmed by a single incident or practice band together to sue, or an individual or small group sues on behalf of this larger group. But toxic torts can take other forms, as well.
A single individual harmed by the practice, product, or incident issue can file his own, individual lawsuit. In many cases, particularly where an individual’s circumstances or damages differ from the norm, this strategy can be the best.
In addition, many states allow consumers and citizens to step into the shoes of the state’s Attorney General and file a “private attorney general” action to redress some types of toxic torts. Although the rules vary by state and by type of claim, these actions are generally regulatory (actions alleging the violation of a statute or regulation). This type of toxic tort claim is most often based upon exposure to a toxin via a consumer product (such as gasoline, or high lead content in a toy).
Whatever the type of toxic tort at issue, a highly-skilled, experienced attorney is essential. Toxic tort defendants are often large companies, which spare no expense, and are willing to spend significant amounts of money to defend what can become a high-profile case. If you believe that you have been injured through exposure to a toxin, seek out the counsel of an attorney who knows how to try these cases and combat these tactics.
Stephen M. Passen has over 30 years experience representing individuals and families in serious personal injury and wrongful death actions against some of the largest and most powerful corporations. As an example, he recently secured a $4.2 million settlement for the family of a worker who was severely burned after a gasoline storage tanker he was working on exploded.
Contact Mr. Passen by phone at (312) 527-4500 or email at firstname.lastname@example.org for a Free Consultation.