In a recent opinion, Florida’s Supreme Court addressed whether an individual who suffers injuries because of a company’s discharge of toxic pollutants can hold the company liable for their damages. This case required the Supreme Court to dissect and analyze Florida’s 1970 Pollutant Discharge and Control Act (1970 Act) and the Water Quality Assurance Act of 1983 (1983 Act), ultimately finding in favor of a plaintiff who suffered serious personal injuries after contacting spilled battery acid.
Florida’s Statute of the 1983 Act imposes strict liability for the discharge of specific toxic pollutants. Some common pollutants are nerve agents, asbestos, sulfuric acid, benzene, pesticides, and silica. Exposure to these toxins can result in serious medical conditions, including, asbestosis, Hodgkin’s disease, lung disease, Leukemia, Lymphoma, and Mesothelioma. Most often, individuals suffer exposure through the workplace, use of medications and pharmaceuticals, and a person’s residence. In some instances, individuals may experience exposure through the air or drinking water. The most common defendants in these toxic torts cases are the company who polluted the groundwater, an employer who does not abide by workplace safety standards, or a home manufacturer or landlord who does not appropriately test for mold or lead.
The plaintiff was a tow truck driver responding to the scene of an accident involving a disabled semi-truck accident. The semi-truck was transporting batteries at the time of the accident, and the collision resulted in a massive battery acid spill. While preparing the semi-truck for towing, the plaintiff came into contact with battery acid and suffered chemical burns. The tow truck driver filed a lawsuit against the trucking company, arguing that the company was liable for this damages under strict liability theory according to the Acts. The defendant appealed the plaintiff’s $5 million jury award, arguing that the 1970 Act expressly bars personal injury actions arising from an environmental action, and the 1983 Act does not address damages.