A toxic tort is a legal claim that results from exposure to a dangerous substance. This can include pesticides, chemicals or pharmaceutical drugs. Despite advancements in technology, manufacturing and medicine, these introduce thousands of new products into our lives some of which cause serious illness. At times substances that are thought to be safe are actually harmful, for example asbestos. At times dangerous substances accidentally leak into groundwater or the air. In reaction to this, lawsuits can be filed by victims exposed to or harmed by such substances. Thus, creating what is referred to as toxic tort litigation. This article and subsequent ones will discuss a general overview of toxic tort claims, and common issues.
Common Issues Arising in Toxic Tort Cases
As with any legal case there may issues that may arise. The same is true when it comes to toxic tort claims, even though each case is unique the issues that arise in such cases are very common. Some of these issues that arise are:
- Proving causation – This concept of causation “usually describes the reason something happens”. The element of causation is measured by what is referred to as a ‘but for test’. The ‘but for test’ is commonly used to determine actual causation. That is, “the test asks, but for the existence of X, would Y have occurred?” The area of causation is a difficult area for a number of reasons. However, in many cases it is difficult to trace the source of the chemical or substance that actually caused the injury. Further, many illnesses caused by toxin exposure do not show symptoms until years after the exposure. As a result, victims need to weed-out overriding factors so as to prove their case. Showing that it was a specific chemical manufactured or distributed by the defendant that caused their illness.