Exposure to hazardous chemical – settle or not to settle?

By Greg Kohn

Most people will be exposed to chemicals at some point during their existence. That chemical exposure will typically be through the use of household products, potentially through work-related tasks, or both. However, most do not expect to be involved in and have their health and the health of their loved ones directly impacted by a chemical spill. Anyone who has been seriously injured or lost a loved one due to a chemical exposure should consider consulting with a New Jersey wrongful death attorney to understand their legal rights and recourse.

New Jersey residents may be familiar with the November 2012 Conrail freight train derailment over a New Jersey bridge which resulted in the release of vinyl chloride into the air. This release sickened over 70 residents in the area causing dizziness and breathing difficulties. According to CDC’s Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry, vinyl chloride is a known human carcinogen that can affect the heart, liver, and immune system and may affect growth and development.

Recently, an Action News investigation revealed that Conrail is attempting to make secret settlements with families affected by the November 2012 vinyl chloride spill wherein parents are being offered as low as $500 per child if they sign a settlement agreement that relieves the company from future lawsuits for injuries sustained as a result of the chemical exposure. Some families who were affected by the spill had children as young as 10-days old. A temporary restraining order has been filed to prevent Conrail from offering this settlement to families but a hearing has not been set yet.

Chemical exposure can result in serious short and long-term life-threatening injuries including the development of cancer. Residents near the bridge where the spill occurred did experience respiratory difficulties and, at this point it is unclear how the exposure will impact their health in the future. Nevertheless, based on current information affected families may be entitled to compensation.

It is important for anyone in a similar situation or who has had a chemical exposure at work should consider consulting with a serious injury attorney to have one’s facts evaluated and, legal options discussed.

Source: ABC News, “Conrail signs secret settlement with Paulsboro, NJ spill victims,” Wendy Saltzman, March 11, 2013,

About the Author
Greg Kohn is a partner at Nagel Rice and specializes in complex civil litigation cases, including professional malpractice, personal injury, class actions, wrongful death, products liability, and commercial litigation.  He has extensive experience representing clients in both state and federal court. Greg has tried many jury trials to verdict and has recovered over $50 million in settlements and verdicts in all types of personal injury matters including automobile accidents, wrongful death cases, slip and falls, and other catastrophic injury cases. Greg also handles medical malpractice cases, involving misdiagnoses, wrongful birth, and delayed cancer diagnosis. If you have questions regarding this article, you can contact Greg here.