In any toxic tort, be it exposure to asbestos, benzene, or another potentially harmful substance, plaintiffs must prove that their injury was directly caused by interacting with or proximity to the chemical in question. Proving harm and causation is a basic aspect of any tort, but in the arena of toxic torts, it is an important barrier to specious, unfounded claims.
How Can the Specific Causation Test Deter Litigation?
The concept of specific causation requires that the alleged action or negligence is a direct cause of the injury or illness. In a toxic tort, this is a two-step process. The first step is providing evidence that the substance is harmful.
In many cases, such as asbestos or other substances, there is some scientific consensus that the material is harmful. Those scientific studies are peer-reviewed, well-known, and often unimpeachable. But there may also be other studies or governmental standards, such as an OSHA PEL (permissible exposure limit), which can help show that a given exposure was de minimis – insignificant to cause any harm.
The second condition of specific causation requires that the plaintiff prove that toxic exposure caused the injury in a particular case. It is much harder to establish this level of causation, as while some conditions have links to exposure, many do not. Mesothelioma, for example, is a well-known disease thought to be exclusive to asbestos exposure. However, other conditions associated with asbestos include lung cancer, COPD, and pleural effusion, which can have other causes not explicitly linked to asbestos exposure.
Work with Experienced Defense Counsel
Plaintiffs spend months building their arguments and collecting evidence alleging that companies negligently exposed customers and employees to toxic substances. Their cases often hang on a complex set of conditions.
If your company faces a toxic tort claim, no matter how sympathetic the plaintiff may be to a jury, you will greatly improve your chances of achieving a favorable outcome by working with skilled and experienced defense counsel.
No matter how meticulous the preparation, few cases possess the factual base to succeed in the face of an experienced, aggressive defense.