The Court of Appeals, reversing the Appellate Division, in a full-fledged opinion by Judge Garcia, over an extensive dissenting opinion, determined the proof of plaintiff’s decedent’s exposure to asbestos in defendant’s talcum powder was not sufficient to demonstrate the powder caused decedent’s mesothelioma (lung cancer). The opinion reviews the toxic-tort caselaw with respect to the sufficiency of proof of causation. That discussion is too comprehensive to fairly summarize here:
Although we have recognized that in any given case it may be “difficult, if not impossible, to quantify a plaintiff’s past exposure” to a toxin … , our standard itself is not “impossible” for plaintiffs to meet … . We must, as always, strike a balance between the need to exclude “unreliable or speculative information” as to causation with our obligation to ensure that we have not set “an insurmountable standard that would effectively deprive toxic tort plaintiffs of their day in court” … . The requirement that plaintiff establish, using expert testimony based on generally accepted methodologies, sufficient exposure to a toxin to cause the claimed illness strikes the appropriate balance … . The fault here is not in our standard, but in plaintiff’s proof. Nemeth v Brenntag N. Am.. 2022 NY Slip Op 02769, CtApp 4-26, 2022
Practice Point: This Court of Appeals opinion reviews and analyzes the causation proof-requirements for toxic tort cases. Here the proof that asbestos in talcum powder caused plaintiff’s decedent’s lung cancer was deemed insufficient.