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Property Contamination Claims: Who to Blame

By Ephrat Livni, Esq. | Last updated on

Perhaps you've been living over a dump. Obviously, you didn't know about it or you wouldn't have been so thrilled by the cheap rent. Now the place has made you sick.

Who do you blame? Who can you sue? Is someone supposed to clean this mess? And shouldn't you have been warned? The answers to these questions are not always straightforward. Let's explore them.

Contamination Complications

Several legal and logistical issues apply to the question of contamination. Who to blame gets complicated. Take the cheap apartment scenario -- after a decade you discover that the place has been poisoning you. Can you sue your landlord for injury?

Yes, but whether the claim succeeds depends on what the landlord knew and should have known, what was reasonable under the circumstances. Whether cleanup is possible or can be made the landlord's responsibility also depends on how the environmental hazard came about, when, and state and local environmental protection laws.

In other words, there is recourse for an injured person when contamination caused injury. Still, the source of the poison and what was known about it -- or should have been known and disclosed -- and other factors go into a determination of what's reasonable and what is negligence in toxic torts.

Big and Small Picture

On a grand scale, there are major environmental spills and federal laws that govern who should clean up what and when. Even then, proving responsibility for contamination is not easy, as there are limits to liability that might surprise you.

Sometimes a property owner is responsible for contamination even when it's caused by a negligent tenant. Sometimes a person who purchased a contaminated property can be sued for contribution to cleanup, although there are defenses. But there are defenses in all federal legislation. It does not always follow that contaminators pay for cleanup or injury.

Contamination Claims

All of the caveats aside, negligence suits for contaminated property, water, and food abound. Whether you're injured by a product or property or a public service that's poorly managed -- like the victims of lead poisoning in Flint, Michigan's water -- you can sue.

Who the appropriate parties to target are, and what standards govern a claim, depend on the context of the suit and poisoning. A property purchaser suing a developer might make breach of contract claims in addition to arguing negligence for causing injury. A good lawyer will advance all plausible arguments to help you recover.

Consult With Counsel

If you or someone you know has been injured on contaminated property, or in any other context, speak to a lawyer. Many personal injury attorneys consult for free or a minimal fee and will be happy to discuss your case.

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