In a recent opinion, a federal appellate court dismissed a case filed by an employee who claimed that he developed health issues after being exposed to a toxic substance. The employee was working on his employer’s roof and was exposed to fumes of a glue that contained methylene diphenyl diisocyanate (MDI). The employee brought a claim against the glue manufacturer, alleging that the exposure to MDI caused him neurological and psychological problems, and he was not properly warned of the health risks.
After the parties engaged in discovery, the court dismissed the claim. It found that under Indiana law, a toxic tort claim required an expert on the issue of causation, and the employee did not provide such evidence. He only identified an expert on the language warnings but did not provide an expert on causation.
The employee argued that six treating physicians who provided reports were experts, even though they were not identified as experts in discovery. However, the court found that the employee was required to disclose who he planned to offer as an expert witness. In addition, the physicians’ reports the employee attached only summarized the employee’s symptoms and suggested a course of treatment. The court determined that the experts did not discuss causation and failed to state that they believed the MDI caused the employee’s health issues or explain why the glue may have caused his neurological and psychological problems. In contrast, the defendant provided an assessment from the World Health Organization, stating that MDI can irritate lung tissues and cause asthma-like symptoms, but it is not associated with other bad outcomes. As a result, the court dismissed the case.
Causation in Toxic Tort Claims
Toxic tort claims are based on an individual’s exposure to toxic substances. One of the biggest hurdles in toxic tort cases in proving the causal link between the exposure and the injury. A plaintiff has to prove that the exposure to the substance resulted in the injury. It can be difficult to prove because it is often unclear how much exposure a person had and whether there is a link between the exposure and the problems the person has experienced. In many cases, it takes a long time for symptoms to develop. Often, there is also contradictory or inconclusive research on the relationships between certain substances and diseases.
A plaintiff has to prove not only that a substance is capable of causing a particular injury generally but also that the substance caused the individual’s injury specifically. Normally, an expert is required to prove both general and specific causation.
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