|Here Come The Lawyers|
|Thursday, 12 July 2012 13:20|
By Joe Rajkovacz, CCTA Director of Governmental Affairs & Communications
As part of my morning schedule each day, I Googled on trucking related news clips from around the world. Check out this link: www.mcdonaldworley.com/diesel-fumes-exposure.htm. It is a website run by two young lawyers from Houston, Texas looking for clients in the trucking industry for their personal injury (PI) practice—they want to hold someone accountable for health effects from diesel exhaust.
It turns out they are not alone. When I Googled “lawyers, diesel fumes” I got 57,400 hits, finding thousands of PI attorneys sharpening their legal knives to attack trucking and construction company owners, equipment and engine manufacturers as well as diesel refiners.
To all those in the trucking industry who decided to cut a Faustian deal with the California Air Resources Board (CARB) and/or the federal Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) that allowed those agencies to regulate our industry, guess this is where we get to say “told you so.” Many shamelessly hid behind environmental regulations as a way to push small-business competitors from the marketplace. Whether a manufacturer of diesel powered trucks/equipment or larger motor carriers and their associations, they saw this as a grandiose opportunity to sell lots of new equipment or gain market and did not deny the science behind the regulations – namely the health effects from exposure to diesel exhaust. The ATA actually was part of the White House ceremony celebrating EPA’s deeply flawed GHG/fuel efficiency rulemaking.
The price for that chicanery just might be more than most large motor carriers and manufacturers of diesel equipment ever contemplated as a law firms like this one in Houston actively solicit for people exposed to diesel fumes (e.g. truck drivers, construction workers and dock personnel). This sentence from the McDonald-Worley website ought to cause the rent-seeking Benedict Arnolds among some of us to reflect on their hubris: “Truckers, shipping professionals and others that have received prolonged exposure to fume toxins should contact our experienced attorneys immediately as you might be entitled to significant compensation.”
Many of us have believed it was only a matter of time before some enterprising lawyers decided to test the waters of litigation related to exposure from diesel exhaust similar to the successful multi-billion dollar tobacco lawsuits – er, rackets.
We could add the asbestos legal fight which started in 1929 and is going strong to this day under the Mesothelioma rubric you see advertised on television all day, every day. Asbestos litigation is the longest, most expensive legal battle in U.S. history, involving more than 8,000 defendants and 700,000 claimants. Current trends indicate that the cases will likely increase through the next decade. Analysts estimate the total costs of asbestos litigation in the U.S. alone will eventually reach $275 billion.
Déjà vu all over again!
California had been the only government in the world to designate diesel exhaust as a toxic air contaminant, based on a flawed 1983 railroad “study” from the Midwest that even the author disavowed as the basis for such a decision. The decision came from the CARB Scientific Review Panel and is the basis for all the diesel regulations—portable, off-road, on-road, port, etc.
All of that changed last month when the World Health Organization reclassified diesel engine exhaust as a carcinogen in humans. In late June, EPA issued a rulemaking to reduce the national ambient standard for particulate matter by 20%. Diesel PM is only 6% of total PM, but it is the main target to regulate by environmental agencies and organizations since there isn’t much they can do about the 90 plus percent that is mostly atmospheric dust and sea salt (think of all that smoke from Colorado’s wildfires).
Add to all that the bogus studies claiming severe health risks and invented guestimates of the so-called victimized populations from diesel exhaust exposure and trial lawyers are salivating at the bucks to be made by the demonized diesel engine.
This is what is called “comeuppance” and even I am thinking that I should explore my options after 3+ decades of exposure to diesel exhaust – why not? (cough, cough).