ALERT | Legal and Financial Liabilities Related to Chemicals

Legislation, S.197, was introduced for the new legislative session that contains provisions addressing two of the three legal and financial liability provisions that had been included in the original version of S.103, the wide ranging chemical bill introduced last year.

Specifically, S.197 would (1) expose any person who releases a toxic substance strictly, jointly, and severally liable for any harm resulting from the release, and (2) establish a private right of action for medical monitoring damages incurred related to exposure to a toxic substance.

In both cases the scope and threshold for establishing harm and liability would be extremely broad and low.  For example, the strict, several, and joint liability would be for harm defined as any personal injury or property damage, for any release whether intentional or unintentional, permitted or unpermitted, and the “toxic” substances covered would not only include those identified as toxic under state or federal law, but also “any other substance that has been shown at any time to cause increased risk of disease”.

Similarly, under the medical monitoring provisions, any person may recover medical monitoring damages from exposure to a toxic substance “with or without a present injury or disease”, and one of the standards is the “person’s exposure to the toxic substance increases the risk of developing a disease” but a “person does not need to prove that the disease is certain or likely to develop as a result of the exposure”.

The bill has wide ranging implications for the manufacturers, retailers, and other companies or public sector entities that could be exposed to unreasonable or unwarranted liabilities, from confidence in the meaning of regulatory compliance, to direct financial risks, to even the ability to afford insurance for certain risks.

The bill is currently in the Senate Judiciary Committee, where AIV and other stakeholders have provided testimony.

As with other chemical related proposals, AIV is working to coordinate coalition efforts of a wide range of companies and associations concerned about this legislation.  We encourage you to review the bill and to contact us at info@aivt.org to learn more about what is going on, our efforts to work on these issues, and opportunities to stay informed and possibly consider engaging more directly.