What Are Toxic Torts?
Posted in Local News on September 19, 2017
A local school made headlines recently when over a thousand students were forced to evacuate due to a Freon leak.
Alarms sounded throughout University Academy on a Monday in mid-August around 7:30 am, just as students were entering the building for classes. Sensors determined there was a Freon leak somewhere in the building.
Firefighters rushed to the charter school, where they confirmed the leak was from the school’s central cooling system. Upon hearing the news, school administrators decided to cancel classes for the day so a contractor could complete repairs.
There is a reason administrators took such precautions – Freon is a toxic gas that can lead to abdominal pain, vomiting, dizziness, and shortness of breath. In severe cases, it can lead to oxygen deprivation and swelling of the throat. Left untreated, refrigerant poisoning can lead to permanent injury or even death.
Thankfully, there were no reported injuries in the recent school Freon leak. However, not all individuals are as lucky. If you or a loved one incurred injury after being exposed to a toxic substance, you may be able to file what’s called a “toxic tort.”
In a toxic tort claim, the person suing claims their exposure to a dangerous substance caused an illness or injury. Often, these claims are class action in nature, meaning a lawyer brings them on behalf of several parties. Examples of mass toxic torts may include:
- A group of construction workers exposed to asbestos on a site.
- A group of individuals experiencing a negative side effect from a pharmaceutical drug.
- A neighborhood becoming sick from contaminated groundwater.
However, an individual may also initiate a toxic tort claim. These usually arise in one of a few predictable contexts:
- Toxic exposure on the job from such substances as benzene, asbestos, lead, or coal dust.
- Exposure in the home, like a rental property with black mold or undisclosed lead.
- Consumer products, such as pesticides.
- Pharmaceutical drugs with unintended or undisclosed side effects.
Proving Toxic Torts
To successfully litigate a toxic tort, the plaintiff (person suing) must provide sufficient evidence for the following:
- The substance was dangerous. Some substances have well-established detrimental effects, while others, like new pharmaceutical drugs, may require expert testimony.
- The plaintiff came into contact with the substance. You will have to prove exposure, as well as that your injuries didn’t have some other underlying cause.
- Exposure to the substance led to measurable harm.
If you suspect your employer or landlord was negligent and exposed you to a toxic substance, seek medical care immediately. Sometimes, the effects of a toxic substance exposure won’t appear for months or even years after an accident. For example, a worker who inhaled regularly asbestos might not develop mesothelioma for decades after the initial exposure.
This is why the statute of limitations works a little differently for toxic torts. In these instances, you have two years from when you notice (or should have noticed) the injury resulting from your exposure. It’s in your best interests to contact an attorney for guidance as soon as possible.