The most common toxic tort cases involve occupational exposure to toxic substances. One example I worked on involved physicians, nurses and other healthcare workers who developed asthma and other disorders as a result of workplace exposure to airborne latex allergens.

I represented healthcare workers all over the country in suits against the manufacturers of latex gloves that were coated with powder that was saturated with latex allergens. The powder became airborne when gloves were donned or removed.

Susceptible healthcare workers who breathed the contaminated powder developed respiratory and other allergic disorders including anaphylaxis (the severe reaction with swelling of the throat that some people get after a bee sting). Later, after many thousands of health care workers became ill, powdered gloves were replaced by powder-free gloves.(1)

Since the FDA considered medical gloves to be medical devices, these cases involved both a toxic tort and medical device liability.

Other examples of common toxic tort cases involve injuries resulting from exposure to asbestos, pesticides, mercury, arsenic, benzene and lead.

Cases involving the toxic effects of pharmaceutical drugs have a category of their own—drug product liability.

Proof requirements in a toxic tort case depend on the legal theories of the case and applicable state laws but generally it must be shown that:

1) the substance in question was dangerous and capable of causing the plaintiff’s injury;

2) the plaintiff was exposed to that substance, and

3) the substance more likely than not caused the plaintiff’s injury.


  1. Medical Glove Powder Report. US Food and Drug Administration. September1997; Statement of Elizabeth D. Jacobson, Ph.D. Acting Director Center for Devices and Radiological Health Food and Drug Administration Department of Health and Human Services before the Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations House Committee on Education and the Workforce. March 25, 1999.