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An Overview of Mass Torts and Toxic Torts

December 2, 2020 in

If you are a victim of environmental hazards, corporate oversight, or product liability, chances are you are not alone. Most defective products are not just affecting one consumer.  The mass-produced nature of today’s products means that thousands can be affected by one single defect, error, or contaminant. Industrial and environmental contaminants can impact entire workplaces, neighboring businesses, entire communities and cities. 

 

Torts are actions that cause harm to an individual or group of individuals. When numerous people are harmed by the same negligent acts, civil lawsuits are often filed and consolidated into a mass tort case.   Mass torts often involve defective drugs, medical devices, consumer products, and toxic environmental exposures.  Our skilled team of New York City mass tort lawyers understand the complexities of mass tort litigation and provide an overview of this type of civil action.

 

An Overview of Mass Torts and Toxic Torts

 

Attorneys at Sullivan Papain Block McGrath Coffinas & Cannavo P.C. are well-versed in mass tort claims. 

 

Mass Torts

Mass torts generally occur when companies commit negligent acts or design, manufacture, and sell defective products, which harm a large number of individuals.  When groups of people are injured by the same product or the same toxic exposure, these affected individuals may file lawsuits.  These suits are often filed in, or transferred to, federal court.  Any party to the federal lawsuits may seek consolidation into a Multi-District Litigation court (commonly known as an “MDL”).  A decision whether to consolidate the cases is made by the Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation (“JPML”), which is a special court created by Congress in 1968, for the specific purpose of deciding whether to create a “mass tort” for cases that share common questions of fact.  Unlike class members in a class action, mass tort claimants maintain their own rights and control over their individual lawsuit.  In this vein, they also must prove their own claims with specific evidence pertaining to their individual case. Mass torts are a means of consolidating cases with common questions of fact, usually against the same Defendant.

 

Examples of notable mass torts include the talcum powder, Roundup, and Zantac litigations.  In each of these litigations, plaintiffs claim  that exposure to the products caused their cancers, and their lawsuits were consolidated in MDLs in federal courts in New Jersey, California, and Florida, respectively.  In the talcum powder litigation, women who have used Johnson’s Baby Powder or Johnson & Johnson’s Shower-to-Shower allege that prolonged exposure to these products caused them to contract ovarian cancer.  Similarly, Roundup users allege that exposure to the popular weed killer caused their non-hodgkin’s lymphoma.  In the Zantac litigation, cancer victims allege that the popular acid reflux medication breaks down into N-Nitrosodimethylamine (also known as NDMA), which is classified as a probable human carcinogen by the FDA and EPA.  Because each of these cases are based on many similar facts and legal theories, MDLs were designated for each.

 

Toxic Torts

Toxic torts occur when people are harmed by a toxic chemical. Industrial hazards and environmental contaminations are types of toxic tort claims. Typically, the plaintiff in this type of case must establish that the wrongdoer was responsible for a harmful substance, which was released onto the plaintiff’s property or person, and caused the Plaintiff physical and/or economic harm. 

 

If pursuing a toxic tort claim in New York, it is always important for the plaintiff to establish proof of exposure.  This proof can take many different forms depending on the type of case.  For example, when toxins are found in someone’s drinking water supply, groundwater sample results can establish proof of exposure.  In other instances, such as with exposure to lead, blood tests will suffice.  Finally, a plaintiff’s testimony and/or witness identifications will often satisfy the requirement of proof.  SPBMCC attorney Craig Silverman has represented hundreds of similarly situated toxic tort victims, whose private groundwater supply wells were contaminated by gasoline and gasoline constituents released into the environment through leaking underground storage tanks.  When people and their properties are exposed to widespread contamination, they likely have causes of action to recover for the associated health consequences and diminution in the value of their property.

 

Though it was not given “mass tort” status, one of the most prominent toxic tort cases arose as a result of the 9/11attacks, when thousands of individuals and first responders were heavily exposed to toxic substances, dust, and building materials, which led to respiratory disease, cancer and other adverse health effects. 

 

SPBMCC Attorneys Have Represented Hundreds of Firefighters as well as Police Officers, construction workers, Con Edison and Verizon workers in Mass Tort Litigation Following 9/11

 

Following the tragic events of 9/11, thousands of first-responders, workers, families, students, debris removal specialists and others were profoundly impacted by the circumstances during and after the attacks. Our firm secured $265 million in compensation for 363 firefighters, as well as families of deceased firefighters, in the original September 11th Victim Compensation Fund. Our 9/11 VCF attorneys and mass tort attorneys also represented more than 600 firefighters who fell ill due to exposure to toxic material and debris at and around the World Trade Center disaster site.

 

In 2004, following the closure of the VCF, firefighters sickened by exposures at the World Trade Center continued to seek our help. We filed the first lawsuits against the City of New York and its contractors for

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