The Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals has ruled that a putative class of residents of Painesville, Ohio, is not entitled to medical monitoring in a case involving a train carrying hazardous materials that derailed and burned. Hirsch v. CSX Transp., Inc., No. 09-4548 (6th Cir. 9/8/11). The litigation arose from an October 2007 train derailment that caused the evacuation of 1,300 residents within a halfmile radius for three days. Plaintiffs claimed that, following derailment, fire consumed plywood, polyethylene, biodiesel, feed, and other materials and burned for 60 hours. Nearly 2,800 tons of materials burned in the blaze, allegedly releasing dioxins and other cancer-causing agents.
The complaint alleged negligence, nuisance, strict liability, trespass, and medical monitoring under Ohio law. The district court dismissed all but the negligence claim and later granted defendant’s motion for summary judgment on that claim. Plaintiffs then appealed, arguing that medical monitoring was necessary to discern whether plaintiffs have suffered a compensable injury.
Affirming the district court, the appeals court determined that the risk of cancer and other diseases caused by burning toxic agents after the spill was too insignificant to warrant an order for medical monitoring. According to the court, other than suffering some stress from the train derailment and fire, plaintiffs have not suffered any discernable injury. To order defendant to pay the costs of medical monitoring where plaintiffs allege only “a risk that borders on legal insignificance” was unwarranted under state law, according to the court.