Recently, an appellate court issued an opinion addressing whether Florida’s 1970 Pollutant Discharge Prevention and Control Act allows a plaintiff’s cause of action for personal injuries. The plaintiff worked for a Florida tow truck company and suffered injuries when he arrived at the scene of an accident between a truck transporting batteries and another vehicle. The plaintiff alleged that he suffered serious injuries after coming into contact with battery acid leaking from the truck. He filed a lawsuit against the trucking company claiming that they were strictly liable for his injuries under the 1970 and 1983 pollution acts. The jury found in favor of the plaintiff and awarded him over $5million in damages; however, the district court reversed reasoning that the 1970 statute precluded his claim to personal injury damages.
Pollutants often pose significant threats of danger to Florida residents and the environment. In response to growing concerns regarding exposure to these pollutants, the legislature enacted Florida’s 1970 Pollutant Discharge Prevention and Control Act (1970 Act) and the 1983 Water Quality Assurance Act (1983 Act), which regulates the discharge and removal of certain pollutants. Legislature designed the acts to ensure that these entities are diligent in their handling of these potentially dangerous materials.
The 1970 act provides that the discharge of pollutants upon lands adjoining the coast, tidal flats, and coastal water is prohibited. The 1983 law expanded upon the 1970 act and provided injury victims with a cause of action for harms resulting from pollution of ground and surface waters. The 1970 act defines damages as the destruction to or loss of any real or personal property, except human beings. Unlike the 1970 law, the 1983 act does not provide any definition of damages within its statute. However, the 1983 act provides that injury victims may be able to recover “all damages” resulting from the discharge or other conditions of pollution. The amended 1970 act states that it applies to actions taken by both private and governmental entities when injuries result from the storage, transportation, and disposal of these products.