Toxic Tort Litigation
Arthur F. Foerster and Christine Gregorski Rolph, eds. ABA Section of Environment, Energy, and Resources, Second Edition, 2013.
Toxic tort cases are complex, and according to the Introduction to Toxic Tort Litigation “are viewed as one of the types of litigation with the highest stakes.” The chapter author notes,
Releases of toxic substances from a single incident, ingestion of toxins from the distribution of a single product, or long-term exposure to contaminated environmental media are often alleged to cause injuries and in some cases death to hundreds and even thousands of unsuspecting people. Toxic tort actions may threaten the financial ability of a company and even an entire industry. Announcements that companies and whole industries are teetering on the brink of bankruptcy from lawsuits arising out of toxic releases are now received without any measure of surprise.
Causation is a key issue and is “a chief battleground in toxic tort cases.” According to the chapter author, “[t]he plaintiff has the burden of demonstrating that he or she was exposed to a toxic substance, that he or she suffered physical harm, and most important, that there is a legally sufficient causal link between the exposure and the harm suffered.” Carrying this burden can become “an insurmountable task” when the exposure may not cause harm until years later.