Nuclear Reactor 3

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Q: At a nuclear generating station, I work as a machinist.  Recently, my wife passed away, at a yound age, of an illness that the doctors say resulted from an acquired injury to the DNA of a stem cell in her bone marrow.  This injury was not present at birth.

My family says I should sue my employer, seeking damages for wrongful death, alleging negligence that resulted in my wife’s exposure to radiation.  Additionally, I should bring a products-liability claim against the company that made the nuclear fuel rods.  Our theory is that I inadvertently brought home microscopic particles of radioactive material – ‘fuel fleas’ – on my clothing, hair and tools.  These fuel fleas contained dosages in excess of the maximum that is allowed by federal regulations.  The fleas came in contact with my wife and caused her fatal illness.

A: The federal Price-Anderson Act provides federal jurisdiction over lawsuits for injuries arising out of a nuclear incident.  A nuclear incident is defined to include any occurrence within the United States causing any sickness, disease or death resulting from the radioactive, toxic, explosive or other hazardous properties of source, special nuclear, or byproduct material.  Clearly, your wife’s tragic death constitutes a nuclear incident for the purposes of Price-Anderson.

At trial, you will need to controvert the companies’ expert testimony.  The defense position surely will be that, even if your wife was exposed to fuel fleas as per your exposure scenario, there is only an insignificant chance that her illness was caused by the exposure.  In such cases, the companies have been known to succeed.  Ideally, you also enjoy a tough union contract, with generous insurance provisions, as a possible alternative to litigation.

By: Scott Baron,
Attorney at Law Advertorial

The law responds to changed conditions; exceptions and variations abound. Here, the information is general; always seek out competent counsel. This article shall not be construed as legal advice.

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