Toxic Tort Case - Confidential Settlement in Case Arising out of Release of 30 Tons of Refinery Catalyst in a Small Town.
The challenge in any environmental toxic tort litigation is to establish a causal relationship between the exposure and the resulting medical conditions. Current evidence rules require specific scientific studies and medical proof linking the two.
In addition to the actual physical injuries linked to the catalyst, plaintiffs argued that their fear of future illness for themselves and their children was significant. While there may not be been scientific studies which proved certain risks, that was little comfort to our clients who were exposed to the catalyst and still face the possibility of future illness. This itself causes significant anxiety and distress.
There was little doubt that the negligence of the refinery caused the release and the victim's exposure. Causation regarding the injuries was the challenge. Ultimately, the successful settlement was motivated by factual information which was developed during discovery. On the day of the catalyst release, a spokesman for the refinery assured the town that the powder blanketing the town was harmless. Relying on those assurances, parents allowed their children to play outside in areas that were covered by the catalyst. People went about their business making no effort to avoid exposure.
In fact, the refinery's own documents said that the catalyst could cause skin reactions, irritation, and upper respiratory irritation and damage. It cautioned its own employees to wear protective goggles, clothing and gloves, avoid direct contact and avoid inhalation of the catalyst by using an air purifying respirator. The contrast between the refinery's own documents and what it told local residents motivated the refinery to settle the cases. New York partner Noah Kushlefsky handled the case for the firm.