Environmental Accident Lawyers in Kansas City
Toxic Exposure & Contamination Cases in Missouri
Poisonous chemicals dumped into landfills and other forms of pollution often eventually seep into groundwater where they can contaminate the clean water supply for innocent residents living or working near the dumping site. Despite strict laws against dumping and spilling toxic chemicals and products, many businesses continue to take shortcuts and dispose of their waste illegally.
If you were affected by environmental contamination, you could be entitled to financial compensation, and Shamberg, Johnson & Bergman, Chtd. can help. Our Kansas City environmental accident lawyers have a proven record of successfully going up against large manufacturers, corporations, and other entities who continue to prioritize profits over public health and safety. In total, our team has recovered more than $625 million on behalf of the injured and others affected by negligent and wrongful conduct.
If your soil or groundwater has been contaminated by hazardous waste, don’t wait until you or members of your family begin to experience health problems. Talk to an experienced litigation attorney at Shamberg, Johnson & Bergman, Chtd. today.
Call (816) 542-5999 to request a free, confidential consultation.
Groundwater Contamination Claims
When manufacturers, businesses, and other entities are negligent in handling hazardous waste, byproducts, products, chemicals, and other substances, these substances can enter the surrounding soil and groundwater, leading to contamination. In some cases, this occurs as a one-time event; in other instances, it occurs as a result of a pattern of negligence or harmful corporate practices. Regardless, those responsible for allowing harmful or toxic substances to contaminate groundwater and put others at risk can and should be held accountable.
Groundwater contamination claims often take the form of class actions or mass torts. These are civil actions that include a large number of plaintiffs (those bringing the claim) and a single defendant (in these cases, the entity responsible for the contamination). Because multiple individuals are often affected by groundwater contamination, this type of legal action makes sense in these types of situations. However, in some cases, it may make more sense to file an individual personal injury claim.
Our attorneys can assess your situation and provide insightful, personalized legal guidance tailored to your specific circumstances.
Signs of Groundwater Contamination
Most people use groundwater every day. Some studies show that as many as half of all people in the United States rely on groundwater as their primary source of drinking water. And most Americans use groundwater for cooking, cleaning, and bathing. When this water becomes contaminated, it can have serious detrimental effects.
How can you tell if groundwater is contaminated? Some of the signs include:
- Visible particles in water
- Reduced transparency/increased turbidity
- Poor or unpleasant taste
- Various health issues and illnesses
- Plumbing problems
- Discolored laundered items
Groundwater contamination can lead to a host of health problems, some of which might be life-threatening. These include everything from liver and kidney damage to hypertension, bone damage, dermatitis, and even cancer.
Types of Environmental Accident Cases We Handle
Since 1949, Shamberg, Johnson & Bergman, Chtd. has been the law firm people turn to when they need to stand up to and fight back against large, well-funded corporations. Our Kansas City environmental contamination attorneys work as a team to combine our experience with a network of independent experts who help us investigate and develop the strongest case possible for maximum money damages. We’ve obtained some of the largest verdicts and settlements in the region against companies that illegally contaminated our air, land, and water.
We represent clients in environmental law cases involving situations like:
- Benzine spills
- Residential asbestos
- Oil spills and natural gas leaks
- Dumping of fluorescent tubes and batteries
- Mercury dumping
This is not an exhaustive list; we are prepared to assist you in any type of environmental contamination or accident case. Our team is happy to sit down with you to discuss your specific environmental law matter involving any type of toxic waste or chemical exposure.
Contact Us Today for a Free Consultation
At Shamberg, Johnson & Bergman, Chtd., we are committed to standing up for the rights of ordinary individuals against large, negligent corporations, businesses, and other entities. We are here to serve as your partner throughout the legal process, helping you get back on your feet and seek the justice you are owed for the harm you have endured.
Our experienced trial attorneys represent clients throughout Missouri, Kansas, and the Midwest. We provide our services on a contingency fee basis, so we only collect attorneys’ fees if and when we win your case. If you can’t come to us, we’ll try our best to come to you.
Contact us online or call our office today at (816) 542-5999 to schedule our free initial consultation.
Q:What is environmental law?
A:Environmental law deals with contamination and pollution of the air, ground, and water, as well as other forms of exposure to harmful substances, as a result of a person, company, manufacturer, or entity’s negligent or wrongful practices. Under environmental law, affected individuals can bring claims against these parties for the harm and damages they have sustained under various federal and state laws. These claims often involve various federal acts and governmental agencies, such as the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). They may also involve state agencies, such as the Missouri Department of Natural Resources (MDNR) or Kansas Department of Health and Environment (KDHE). Additionally, environmental law allows citizens to force the cleanup of pollutants, toxic substances, and other hazardous materials through private actions. Individuals may also pursue common law environmental actions for personal injury and property damage that results from environmental contamination or pollution.
Q:What kind of actions can be brought by an individual for environmental harm?
A:Under several federal environmental statutes—including the Clean Water Act (CWA), the Clean Air Act (CAA), the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA), and the Comprehensive Environmental Response and Liability Act (CERCLA), among others—an individual may bring a “citizen suit” to force the cleanup of environmental contamination. These lawsuits are brought on behalf of the government and are limited to enforcement of either state or federal environmental laws or regulations. For example, a citizen suit may be brought under the Clean Water Act to stop a polluter from illegally discharging hazardous waste into a stream. If the government has already taken action against the polluter, a citizen suit is generally not allowed to proceed. Private individuals may also file lawsuits to obtain compensation for damage caused by environmental contamination to their property or for personal injury under the state common law. For example, an individual whose private property has been affected by the release or discharge of toxic chemicals from a manufacturing or other business concern may have recourse, not only by a citizen suit under federal law to force a cleanup but also by state common law under which they can bring a claim to recover for property damage, bodily harm, or personal injury caused by the contamination.
Q:What is a common law environmental claim?
A:Under the common law, plaintiffs can file individual lawsuits against third parties whose negligence or wrongful conduct causes the plaintiff harm. Typically, these types of claims seek compensation for damages related to individual property or personal injury. Common law environmental claims are generally based on one of several theories, including nuisance, trespass, strict liability, and negligence.
Q:What is a claim for nuisance?
A:Under the common law, a claim for nuisance is based on the unreasonable interference or the loss of use and enjoyment of one’s property because of the actions or unlawful conduct of a nearby landowner. A simple example of a nuisance case would be a pig farm that moved in next to a residential area. The interference with the homeowner’s right to peaceably enjoy their property caused by the odor of a pig farm could be actionable as a nuisance. Damages in a nuisance action may include the diminution of property value associated with contamination, as well as damages for the loss of use of the property and its peaceful and quiet enjoyment or other environmental complications involved in a cleanup. Nuisance is closely related to the doctrine of trespass but does not necessarily require a direct physical invasion of the claimant’s property. Both nuisance and trespass can provide damages for the difference between the value of an individual’s contaminated property and the value of the property were it not contaminated.
Q:What is a claim for trespass?
A:Trespass is a claim under the common law for direct, physical invasion or contamination of a person’s property. A trespass would occur when one neighbor throws their trash into another neighbor’s yard without permission to do so. Damages for trespass are generally measured as the cost to repair or clean up the property to its former pre-contaminated state. Some states limit damages to the value of the property. In other words, where the cost to clean up the property exceeds the market value of the property, the property owner is limited to recovering the fair market value, even if that is less than it would cost to clean up the pollution. Other states have held that in pollution cases, this rule should not apply and the cost to repair should be awarded as damages even if that amount exceeds the market value of the property.
Q:What is a claim for strict liability?
A:A lawsuit may be based on the theory of strict liability for environmental harm if the potential defendant used a substance considered so hazardous that the law will award an adjacent property owner damages as a matter of course if the hazardous substance escapes and migrates to someone else’s property. If strict liability applies, fault is not an issue, and the reason why the substance was released by its owner does not matter. The defendant will be held liable for damages even if they were not negligent. As in trespass, damages to property are generally measured in terms of the cost to repair the property to its former pre-contaminated state.
Q:What is a claim for negligence?
A:Under a negligence theory, the person bringing the lawsuit must prove that the defendant acted or failed to act in such a manner as to cause the harm complained of. The defendant will be held liable for contamination only if they used the contaminant in question in a manner that falls below the standard of what a reasonably prudent person would have done under the same or similar circumstances. Under a theory of negligence, a defendant will be liable for the damages or harm reasonably foreseeable to occur based on their conduct. In environmental actions, that can include damages for cleaning up the property, the diminished property values, or for bodily injury caused by exposure.
Q:What must be done to bring a lawsuit to force a cleanup or recover for environmental damages?
A:The party or parties who are responsible for the contamination must be identified before a lawsuit can be brought for environmental damage. Often the federal or state governmental agency in charge of environmental enforcement will have identified parties potentially responsible for the contamination problem. If the government has not identified those responsible, an independent environmental investigation must be undertaken to identify those responsible. This entails consulting with environmental scientists to locate the source of the contaminant. For example, the source of a chemical, like trichloroethane (TCE), found in drinking water wells can often be tracked back to its source using geological and hydrological scientific methods. Our firm has retained expert consultants with the scientific expertise needed to determine the source of contamination in environmental litigation involving contaminated drinking water.
Q:Once a source is isolated, what can be done?
A:Depending on the wrongdoer and their financial resources, the pollutants can often be removed through a remediation program (where the pollutants are removed from soil and groundwater to levels that are considered safe by the governmental environmental agencies). In addition, the landowner can be compensated for the diminution in the value of their property as a result of the contamination. Often the property will continue to have damages based on the “stigma” associated with the fact it was contaminated or associated with a contaminated site for which compensation can be awarded.
Q:If I suspect my groundwater or property may be contaminated, what should I do?
A:You should contact your local governmental agency in charge of handling environmental pollution for assistance. If you are using groundwater as a source of drinking water, that will include the local health department. You should also contact your state environmental agency and/or the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to report the problem. It would be advisable to contact a law firm with experience in environmental law if you feel that your property or health have been damaged as a result of the contamination or ingestion of contaminants. Our office is available for consultation, and we can often recommend whom to contact in terms of state agencies. Once information regarding the nature and extent of environmental contamination is documented, we can assist you in evaluating the source of the contamination and determining whether a lawsuit against those responsible for damages is appropriate.
Q:What about toxic mold claims?
A:Mold is a naturally occurring growth that we are exposed to throughout our environment. Some molds, such as stachybotrys or aspergillus (among others), are classified as toxic molds because they contain substances that are harmful to humans and/or animals. Over the last several decades, construction techniques and concerns over energy efficiency have made homes, offices, and other structures more airtight. The increased use of fireboard and other cellulose-based materials in construction has provided a medium for mold to grow. When water leaks into a building through a pipe, soffit, windowsill, roof, or otherwise, it can create an environment conducive for the growth of stachybotrys and other toxic molds. Exposure to toxic mold can cause adverse health consequences. Thus, if present, the mold needs to be removed and the property damage needs to be repaired. In extreme cases, toxic mold has been shown to cause lung damage in infants and those with impaired immune systems.
Q:How long do I have to bring an environmental claim?
A:The statute of limitations, or time you have to file a claim, varies depending on the exact circumstances involved. In most cases involving injury to a person or damage to property, you have five years to bring a civil action against the at-fault person or party. However, certain extenuating circumstances could alter or affect this timeframe. In some cases, the “discovery” rule might apply. The discovery rule acknowledges that damages might not be immediately recognizable on the date on which they first occurred. For example, if you drank contaminated groundwater for months but did not notice its effects or did not develop a health condition for an extended period of time after, the court might rule that the timeline for filing a claim does not begin until the date on which you discovered that you had developed a health condition related to the consumption of the contaminated groundwater. In short, the discovery rule permits plaintiffs to file a claim within the statute of limitations beginning on the date on which they discovered or reasonably should have discovered the injury/damage. We strongly recommend that you contact an attorney at our firm right away to learn more before the statute of limitations in your case expires.
Q:How long do environmental accident cases take?
A:Because environmental law often involves numerous, highly complex scientific issues and legal matters, these types of cases can be fairly time-consuming. Often, attorneys must work with teams of scientific experts in various fields—including environmental science, hydrology, and geology—who must conduct lengthy investigations, as well as numerous laboratory tests and studies to reach a conclusion regarding the level of contamination and its likely source. Litigating environmental accident cases can take several years to reach a resolution, and it is relatively rare for these cases to settle more than a month before trial.