Wrongful Death and Toxic Torts

As the most populated state in the country, California has long been a magnet for industry. With industry comes pollution. Left untreated, pollution creates hazardous, life-threatening conditions for California residents, which may persist even decades after the industry itself is gone.

Ametek Manager Faces Trial in Cancer Victim’s Death

Toxic tort cases are designed to address injuries caused by exposure to dangerous substances. If you have lost a loved one due to toxic exposure, for instance, you can file a wrongful death lawsuit against the parties responsible for the hazardous condition. This is not necessarily limited to the party that initially created the condition. You may also have a viable wrongful death claim against anyone who was responsible for cleaning up a toxic site and failed to do so in a timely manner.

Consider this ongoing wrongful death case from here in southern California. Approximately 50 years ago, the global manufacturer Ametek purchased property in El Cajon, which it used to manufacture aircraft parts until 1988. The El Cajon site also had a long history–dating back to the 1950s–as a storage site for toxic waste. By the mid-1980s, Ametek realized that toxic waste leakage from the property had contaminated the local groundwater.

This contamination affected a number of local residents, including mobile home parks and an elementary school. The school was forced to close in 2015 after tests determine the toxin levels “reached 42 times the threshold level” for taking remedial action, according to court records. As for the trailer parks, that is the subject of the present lawsuit.

The plaintiffs are the heirs of a woman who lived in one of the contaminated mobile home parks for 25 years. She passed away in 2001 due to complications from a kidney tumor. As the plaintiffs alleged in their wrongful death lawsuit, kidney cancer is “one of the known effects” of exposure to trichloroethylene vapors, which is one of the toxic chemicals produced by the contaminated Ametek site.

In addition to suing the company itself, the plaintiffs also named as a co-defendant the individual manager who was responsible for the El Cajon site at the time of the victim’s death. The plaintiffs claim the manager failed to carry out the terms of a 1998 “cleanup and abatement order” (CAO) for the site issued by California environmental officials. The manager moved to dismiss the case against him, arguing that nothing he allegedly did or failed to do caused the victim’s death.

The judge disagreed and denied the motion. In an October 24 order, the judge noted there was a dispute over how long the manager actually worked at the site in question. The manager claimed he only began work at El Cajon in 1998. Even assuming that is true, the judge said “[i]t is at least plausible that had [the manager] decided to comply with the 1998 CAO—by delineating the plume, submitting a feasibility study, and submitting a remedial action plan–[the victim] would not have passed away when she did.” In other words, the manager was at the site for at least two and a half years before the victim died of kidney cancer. Had he acted sooner, that would have reduced the victim’s exposure to carcinogens, and she “would have lived longer than she did.”

How can Our Pasadena Wrongful Death Lawyers Help You?

Toxic torts are perhaps the most complex category of personal injury and wrongful death cases because they involve a great deal of scientific and other expert evidence. It can take many years just to get a case heard in court. If you have lost a loved one due to any kind of industrial or corporate misconduct, you need to speak with an experienced Pasadena personal injury attorney who can advise you of your legal options. Contact Strassburg, Gilmore, & Wei, Attorneys at Law at (626) 683-9933 to schedule a consultation today.

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