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Wrongful death lawsuit alleges long-term toxic exposure

If you have ever heard the term “wrongful death,” you might associate it with a fatal car accident, a serious medical error or some other event that quickly results in death. These scenarios are common reasons to file a wrongful death lawsuit, but there are also cases where the defendant’s negligence killed a victim over a much longer period of time.

Prolonged exposure to toxic substances can be an example of a hazard that could take years to cause ill health effects. But when victims do finally develop symptoms, the diagnosis may be fatal. This is the scenario of a recent wrongful death lawsuit making its way through courts in nearby New Jersey.

The case was filed by the widow of a man who died of lung cancer in 2008. The plaintiff alleges that her husband’s cancer was the result of working for more than 35 years around diesel fumes as an employee of Consolidated Rail Corp. and its predecessor companies.

The man began his career in 1952 and worked with older model locomotives. A former coworker testified that these locomotives emitted high levels of exhaust and the fumes would sometimes seep into the cabins. Yet employees were never provided with safety equipment such as masks or respirators.

An expert medical witness also provided testimony that the man’s lung cancer was likely tied to his decades of exposure to the toxins in diesel fumes.

This lawsuit has had its share of snags. But earlier this month, a New Jersey appellate court ruled that a lower court judge erred in dismissing the case. It will now go to trial.

If a loved one has been injured or killed by the negligence of another person (or corporation), it may not matter whether the death was immediate or was caused by long-term exposure to hazards. Please share your story with an experienced personal injury attorney who can help you understand your rights and legal options.

Source: New Jersey Law Journal, “Wrongful-Death Suit vs. Conrail Over Diesel Fumes Restored,” David Gialanella, Aug. 11, 2014

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