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On March 18, 2020, the Fourth District Court of Appeals ruled on a case that may constitute a significant change to toxic tort law in Florida.
On March 18, 2020, the Fourth District Court of Appeals ruled on a case that may constitute a significant change to toxic tort law in Florida. Robert O’Donnell worked as an installer of floors and carpeting for more than 40 years and alleged that his blood and bone cancer was caused by exposure to benzene, a carcinogen, which was present in adhesive products and removing agents that he handled throughout his career. He and his wife sued manufacturing, distribution, and retail companies that were involved in creating and selling these products. The plantiffs’ experts were unable to establish that the products had created the exposure to Benzene that caused his disease and the defense argued Mr. O’Donnell would have developed cancer without exposure to them. Since Benzene is a common chemical found in many household products like detergents, as well as combustions such as car exhaust, the carpet and floor installation products were not the only exposure to Benzene experienced by Mr. O’Donnell and thus could not be determined to have been the cause of his cancer. The significance of the ruling is that is presents a change in causation standards, in that plaintiffs cannot claim causation if a product was one of many experiences of exposure accumulated in a person’s lifetime. A copy of the ruling can be accessed here.