A Closer Look at Toxic Tort Law

From Louisiana Attorneys Landry & Swarr

When a person is harmed by the effects of a dangerous chemical (including those that we may have thought were safe), it is important for them to be able to pursue compensation for the economic and non-economic effects of their injuries.

Toxic chemical law (or toxic tort) is a body of law that allows for people to do that. Exposure to dangerous chemicals can lead to long-term injuries or illnesses, and when people are over-exposed to dangerous chemicals, or when chemicals leak into areas they shouldn’t be, toxic tort allows for claims against the companies that manufacture, supply, and store the chemicals.

Common Types of Toxic Tort Claims

Toxic tort claims can arise as a result of a number of injuries.

One of the most common types of claims covers exposure to dangerous chemicals on the job. Workers can risk harm from the exposure to dangerous chemicals in a variety of ways, including exposure to highly dangerous chemicals for short amounts of time or mildly dangerous chemicals for long periods of time.

Tort claims can also arise from the use of dangerous pharmaceutical drugs. Drugs with dangerous and unannounced side effects can cause significant injuries, and those taking the drugs have pursued legal action against the manufacturers of those drugs. In addition, people exposed to dangerous substances either in the home or while using a product have used toxic tort to collect damages.

Asbestos is perhaps the most common substance associated with toxic tort. Formerly a common material used in housing and electrical insulation, asbestos has been directly linked with cases of mesothelioma, and the high number of cases that have arisen (due to how common asbestos was) has led to a large body of tort casework related to the material. Click here to find out more about asbestos exposure.

Another body of common tort claims has emerged as a result of benzene exposure in a number of settings. Benzene is found in the emissions of oil, gas, and other substances, and people have identified dangerous amounts of benzene at the workplace, at home, and even in soft drinks. With side-effects ranging from reproductive problems to cancer, benzene exposure has been the subject of many toxic chemical claims.

How Tort Claims Work

Toxic chemical claims rely on a few factors to prove a plaintiff’s case. The chemical must have been proven to be dangerous, the plaintiff must show that they were exposed to the chemical, and the chemical must be the cause of the plaintiff’s harm.

In order to prove a case, the plaintiff needs to be able to show causation, but the links between the injuries caused and the chemical at fault can be difficult to establish. One reason is that the harm that arises from exposure to dangerous chemicals frequently does not appear for a long time. This lapse makes it difficult for the injured parties to retrace the causes of harm to a specific company (for example, the pharmaceutical company that made a specific drug), and evidence is less likely to be widely available.

In addition, it can be difficult to prove causation because the links between dangerous chemicals and injuries are not always clear. Multiple factors may cause the same illnesses, and it can be difficult to isolate the one chemical that resulted in harm.

Toxic tort claims typically target a range of companies involved with various chemicals, and they are frequently brought forth as class action lawsuits, as collective action can help prove harm and gain restitution for more people affected. In pursuing compensatory or punitive damages, individuals or groups affected by a chemical should strongly consider consulting an attorney that focuses in dealing with that chemical, as the scientific and legal specifics of toxic tort can make it difficult to operate individually.