Chemicals, including many that are toxic to humans, have uses that run throughout our society. They are essential, but they are often dangerous. Chemical exposure can have tragic consequences, a truth that is embedded in our region's collective memory because of a 1976 train derailment that released chlorine gas into the surrounding air. This memory is part of what inspires Attorney Pittman, who obtained his law degree that very year, to serve as a toxic chemical lawyer for Panama City. Along with his firm, Attorney Pittman is committed to helping people throughout Northwest Florida who have been made ill by dangerous chemicals and to representing the families of those tragically killed due to chemical exposure in the Florida Panhandle region.
Last week marked the 36-year anniversary of a deadly train derailment in Youngstown. WJHG retold the tragic story of a 140-car BayLine freight train carrying loads from Dothan and Panama City. Contents of the 109 loaded cars varied widely, including everything from wood to turpentine and from beer to chlorine gas. At 2 A.M. on February 26, 1978, the train derailed in Youngstown, spilling deadly chlorine gas into the air. Given the time, no one was on duty in the towers located at Dothan and Panama City, forcing crew members to run to a grocery store on Lingerlonger Road for help. A local Sheriff's Deputy thought they were trying to break-in, but he spread the emergency call when he spoke to the crew, and the dispatcher called all railroaders and emergency personnel to the scene. Three days later, BayLine announced that the track had been sabotaged.
8 died and 88 were injured, mostly due to the poisonous chlorine gas. The gas stopped cars and then entered the occupants' lungs, cutting off their oxygen supply and causing something akin to drowning. While help arrived too late for some, the crew's actions and the work of responding emergency personnel are credited with preventing many more deaths.
Chlorine, one of the most commonly-manufactured chemicals in the U.S., has a number of important uses, as detailed by the Center for Disease Control's “Facts About Chlorine” webpage. It is used as a household cleaner, to kill bacteria in drinking water and swimming pools, and in the manufacture of paper, cloth, rubber, pesticides, and solvents. Often transported as a liquid, chlorine can turn to a gas if released from the proper storage. During World War One, chlorine gas was used as a weapon of war. Exposure to chlorine in various forms can cause pain, chest tightness, blurry vision, fluid in the lungs, vomiting, and breathing problems. It can, as the Youngstown tragedy shows, be deadly. There is no direct antidote. Treatment centers on removing the chlorine from the body.
An area of law called "toxic torts" addresses cases when a substance caused people to be injured, fall ill, or die. The substances involved range fairly widely and can include toxic chemicals (like chlorine gas), pesticides, and pharmaceuticals. Exposure can be accidental or be purposeful, but they all cause unintended results, such as a drug that causes birth defects. Class actions are common in the toxic tort arena, although individual claims are certainly allowable.
Depending on the facts, toxic tort cases can involve different legal theories such as negligence, failure to warn, intentional misrepresentation, strict liability (especially where the case also involves product liability), and wrongful death. Cases can be brought by the injured person, in some cases including others impacted by that injury as additional plaintiffs, or by a family member when the exposure is deadly. Many toxic tort cases involve expert witnesses and scientific witnesses.
The Youngstown tragedy is a dramatic example of how exposure to a dangerous substance can have terrible consequences. Our Panama City toxic tort law firm has the knowledge and experience to represent people injured by exposure to dangerous substances. We can help the injured identify the proper defendants (from a manufacturer/seller to someone who intentionally caused sabotage), develop a case that includes proof that the identified substance caused the injury, and ultimately recover monetary damages from those responsible. We have experience in individual and class action litigation. Call for more information.