What Are Toxic Torts?

We live in a world saturated with dangerous chemicals and toxic substances. The number of hazardous substances in our products and environment has increased in the last few decades, exposing innocent people to everything from tobacco smoke to airborne cancer-causing particles. A toxic tort is a legal remedy for individuals who have sustained injuries, illnesses, or diseases due to exposure to a harmful substance. Injured parties could secure compensation for their pain and suffering, hospital bills, lost quality of life, and more, with a successful tort.

Elements of a Toxic Tort Lawsuit

Contact with any kind of toxic or dangerous substance, resulting in injury, illness, or property damage, is likely grounds to file a toxic tort claim. A “tort” is any civil wrong to someone’s person, finances, or other interests by another person’s negligence or recklessness. Tort claims seek to remedy the situation by providing financial compensation (and sometimes other recoveries) to put the injured party back in the position he or she was before the incident. Toxic torts are torts that result from contact with a toxic substance. To have a toxic tort claim against an individual or corporation, you will need the following elements:

  1. The substance in question was in fact dangerous. You will need to have proof that the substance involved presents a danger to society. Expert testimony and research into the substance could help you prove this element. Toxic substances that have been at the center of torts in the past include asbestos, pesticides, acids, lead, and bad drugs.
  2. You came into contact with the substance. You might have worked around or near the toxic substance, ingested the substance, or had it in your home. Common situations that result in toxic tort claims are occupational exposure, defective or dangerous pharmaceutical drugs, exposure in the home (e.g., toxic mold), and toxic consumer products.
  3. The substance harmed you. Unintentional poisoning is the leading cause of unintentional injury death in the U.S. – taking more lives each year than car accidents. Survivors can suffer serious injuries such as cancer, contact dermatitis, chemical burns, infections, injuries, and diseases. Proof of harm can come in the form of medical documentation and/or expert testimony from a physician.

You generally will not have to prove that the defendant caused the alleged harm. It is enough to show the courts that the toxic substance existed, you suffered exposure, and now you have injuries or illnesses as a result. You can seek damages such as past and future medical expenses, lost wages, physical pain, and emotional suffering from the at-fault defendant.

Other Details About Toxic Tort Claims

There might be more than one defendant involved in your claim, such as the manufacturer of the substance and the employer who negligently exposed you to it. Issues that often occur in toxic torts are proving causation, scientific evidence, and figuring out who is liable. A plaintiff must also file a lawsuit within the state’s statute of limitations. In Minnesota, you typically have three years from the date of exposure or the date you discover your injury/illness to file a claim. A good lawyer can help you identify the defendant(s) and file your claim within the deadline.