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Volkswagen Scandal Raises Questions Of Who’s Liable For Air Pollution Health Problems

The recent hubbub over the way Volkswagen cheated on its emissions tests has led some environmental scientists to calculate the likely human cost of all that extra pollution: between higher cancer rates and respiratory failures, one estimate places the number at 106 deaths.

Still, that’s not a number which VW has to directly account for, and none of those 106 affected families will ever step forward and claim that it was Volkswagen exhaust that ended their loved one’s life. Background pollution may cause air quality problems, but it’s impossible to blame any single contributor outside of certain specific circumstances.

A National First

Recently, a couple who go by Charles and Debra Hale filed a civil complaint against a wood pellet shipping company and against their hometown of Panama City. They create too much dust, the Hales say, dust which isn’t being properly neutralized and has thus reached their home and their lungs. According to state and federal records, this may very well be the first time anyone’s gone after a company specifically on the grounds of air pollution.

Still, in this case it should be relatively easy to come up with a link between cause and effect, at least assuming that such a link exists. For their part, the defendants of this case are demanding that it be dropped since the wood pellet business has been operating for decades, they already offer some protections for workers and for the environment against the dust.

Air Is Everywhere

Even if the judge decides that the Hales have a valid case, they’ll have an uphill battle ahead of them when it comes to figuring out whether the wood dust from the Panama City port is really responsible for their health and property problems.

In the first place, the Hales will need to prove that the air around their property has a certain concentration of wood dust, or at least that it does with the prevailing wind. They’ll then have to prove that the wood dust is hazardous to a person’s health at a point below that concentration, and that it can damage physical property at the same time. Moreover, they have to prove that their health problems come in some way from the wood dust and not from any other reasonable source, such as background pollution.

With something like contaminated water, these connections are at least somewhat reasonable: a person or municipality can only draw water from a few specific sources, and if they can draw a direct line between a company’s waste contaminants and these sources, a jury will be much more likely to believe that the contaminant is responsible if the entire town becomes sick.

Air, on the other hand, goes everywhere, and pollution will quickly reach background concentrations within just a few meters. Thus, even if the Hales get their day in court and even if they win, any precedent they set will still be very hard to beat.

Air pollution is a real problem that may contribute to higher rates of asthma and other respiratory diseases, but it’s not something you can easily address with a personal injury case. Fortunately, there are plenty of other circumstances when personal injury lawsuits can help, and if you live in southwest Florida then the firm you need to call is , Goldman, Babboni, and Walsh. You can contact us today for a free case review, and if you accept our help we’ll do all that we can to get you the compensation you deserve.

During his time as a public attorney for the State of Florida, Bernard Walsh developed a passion for defending the legal rights of Florida's citizens. Having seen many people being taken advantage of after being injured and the financial harm that can cause for families he committed himself fully to helping injured clients get justice, by fighting to make greedy insurance companies pay what they owe.

Volkswagen Scandal Raises Questions Of Who’s Liable For Air Pollution Health Problems

Goldman Babboni Fernandez
Murphy & Walsh

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