When a company operates a factory or other operation for a long period of time in the same area, unanticipated consequences can arise from the pollutants expelled from the operation. However, under state and federal laws, companies that operate factories or other facilities in an area have a duty to the residents living in the vicinity to keep harmful environmental toxins out of the water, soil, and air supplies. When people are harmed due to a company’s activity in their area, they may be entitled to monetary compensation for the harms they have suffered. These cases are often referred to as “toxic tort” cases.
Establishing liability in a toxic tort case requires the plaintiff to establish a number of factors. Often, one of the more contested factors is causation, which addresses whether the defendant’s actions in polluting the area were the cause of the plaintiff’s injuries. This often requires the testimony of scientific and medical experts.
Recent Case Against Shell Reversed on Appeal in Favor of Plaintiffs
In a recent case in front of a New Mexico appellate court, the court determined that the plaintiffs’ causation evidence that was excluded at trial should not have been excluded, and it reversed the lower court’s decision. As a result, the plaintiff will be given the opportunity to proceed with their case.
In the case, Acosta v. Shell, the plaintiffs claimed that toxic chemicals that were emitted from the defendant’s facility resulted in residents developing lupus and other auto-immune disorders. In support of their claim, the plaintiffs had an expert testify that their injuries were caused or worsened by the chemicals the defendant’s factory put into the soil. However, the trial judge refused to allow the expert’s testimony to be considered because he determined that certain elements of the testimony were not relevant.
The plaintiff appealed this ruling and was successful. The appellate court hearing the case explained that there were three considerations that should be taken into account: whether the expert was qualified, whether the testimony would be of assistance to the jury, and whether the expert’s methods were scientifically reliable. If these are met, the court held, the “gate keeping” function of the trial judge should not prevent the jury from hearing the evidence. How much weight the jury gives the testimony is up to the individual jurors, and if a juror does not find the testimony credible or reliable, he or she is free to assign it little to no weight.
Have You Suffered Disease or Injury Due to Toxins in Your Area?
If you believe that you have developed a disease or suffered some other injury due to a company’s continued operation in your area, you may be entitled to monetary compensation through a personal injury lawsuit. It may even be possible that your child was born with a preventable birth injury due to pollution to which you were exposed while pregnant. These cases can be exceptionally complex and often rely on very technical expertise. Therefore, it is best to have an attorney experienced in these matters involved in your case as early as possible. Call 410-654-3600 to set up a free consultation with a dedicated personal injury attorney.
More Blog Posts:
Court Determines City Employee Not Personally Immune from Negligence Lawsuit, Maryland Accident Law Blog, March 22, 2016.
Johnson & Johnson Ordered to Pay $72 Million Award Based on Product Liability Lawsuit over Talcum Powder, Maryland Accident Law Blog, March 1, 2016.