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Mass Torts
Mass torts are torts that cause harm or injury to a large number of people.  For example, an industrial or manufacturing company that pollutes a stream or lake with carcinogic lead or dyes that causes harm to citizens through drinking water exposure is a mass tort.  Defective drugs from pharmaceutical companies that cause injury or deaths to many people also are mass torts. In many cases, mass torts are highly correlated with toxic torts.
Toxic Torts

What is a toxic tort?

A toxic tort is a legal claim for harm caused by exposure to a dangerous substance -- such as a pharmaceutical drug, pesticide, or chemical. If an individual or a group of people has been exposed to and injured by a dangerous substance, either may be able to bring a toxic tort lawsuit.

Most toxic tort injuries arise in one of the following ways:

  • occupational exposure - when industrial workers are exposed to toxins on the job (examples include asbestos, benzene, beryllium, and silica)
  • pharmaceutical drugs - when prescribed drugs cause unintended side effects (to learn more about lawsuits involving pharmaceutical drugs, see article Product Liability Claims Involving Pharmaceutical Drugs)
  • exposure in the home - when people breathe or ingest harmful substances in their home, such as mold (to learn more about mold, see article Toxic Mold Basics), and
  • consumer products - when people use products (like pesticides) that cause unintended injuries.

To learn more about what constitutes a toxic tort, and for tips on special issues in toxic tort litigation, see article Toxic Torts Overview.

How can I prove fault in a toxic tort case?

Plaintiffs in toxic tort lawsuits can use a number of legal theories to try to establish liability and receive compensation for their injuries. Some common claims in toxic tort cases include:

  • Negligence. The plaintiff in a negligence claim must prove that 1) the defendant (perhaps a construction business owner whose employees worked with asbestos) had an obligation to use ordinary care toward the plaintiff or the general public, 2) the defendant's action or failure to act did not meet this duty (for example, the owner failed to provide workers with safety equipment to prevent inhalation of asbestos), and 3) the victim or the general public was injured as a result.
  • Strict liability. In some toxic tort cases, certain behavior is deemed so dangerous that anyone engaging in it will be held legally responsible (strictly liable) for any damages that result. Toxic tort victims in these cases don’t have to show that the defendant acted carelessly.
  • Intentional misrepresentation or fraud. If a defendant knew that a substance was dangerous, but deliberately concealed the danger or marketed the product in a misleading way, a toxic tort plaintiff may have a claim for intentional misrepresentation or fraud.
To learn more about legal theories commonly used in toxic tort cases, see article Toxic Torts: Legal Theories of Liability.

Who can toxic tort victims sue for injuries and health problems?

Figuring out who is responsible for a toxic tort victim's exposure to a dangerous substance can be difficult. Plaintiffs generally sue anybody that had a link to the toxin -- including the manufacturer of the toxin, the manufacturer of machinery that exposes workers to toxins, the owner or lessor of a building or site that contains or emits a toxin, companies that store toxins, and manufacturers of safety equipment intended to protect employees from toxins. To learn more about possible defendants in a toxic tort lawsuit, see article Toxic Torts Overview.

I recently became seriously ill from a dangerous chemical, but my exposure occurred years ago. Is it too late to sue?

An injured plaintiff must bring a lawsuit within a certain period of time after harm occurred -- under laws called statutes of limitations. In toxic tort cases, many plaintiffs don't discover their injuries until many years after the harm occurred, because symptoms often take years to show up. Luckily, the courts follow the "discovery rule," which means the clock doesn't start ticking on the statute of limitations time period until the plaintiff actually discovers the harm. If you just recently became ill from your exposure to a dangerous chemical, meaning you just discovered that the chemical harmed you, it is probably not too late to sue. Contact a lawyer immediately.

Contact London Law Group at (773) 528-1433 if you believe you are a victim of a toxic tort.


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