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Course Descriptions

As of 8/5/2020 5:00:09 AM

Toxic Substances/Toxic Torts

The Problem of Toxics: Toxic Substances and Toxic Torts

In 1984, a Union Carbide plant in Bhopal, India accidentally released a chemical that caused the deaths of more than 2,800 people and injured tens of thousands. A year later, another accidental release at a Union Carbide plant in West Virginia sent 135 people to the hospital and provoked fears that a disaster such as Bhopal could occur in the United States. This course explores the problem of toxics: substances arguably necessary to our industrialized society with the potential to cause injury to human health and the environment. How should government manage the risk of these substances? And what is the role of common law in compensating those who are exposed?

The course will be divided into two parts. First, we will discuss several different regulatory approaches taken to control toxics -- for example, outright bans, risk-benefit balancing, and warnings. Our primary focus will be on the federal regulatory regime governing production and use of such substances. Second, we will discuss toxic torts, the common law actions for injuries from exposure. Our discussion will focus on substantive law -- theories of liability, proof, and remedies -- as well the difficulties encountered in expanding the traditional tort paradigm to encompass injuries that may have long latency periods and other causes.

The introductory environmental law class would be helpful, but is not necessary.