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ALABAMA SUPREME COURT DENIES NEW CLAIM FOR MEDICAL MONITORING

CONTACT: Darren McKinney dmckinney@atra.org
202-682-0084
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Washington, DC, September 20, 2001 -- WASHINGTON, DC - The Supreme Court of Alabama, in answering a certified question from the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Alabama, has determined that claims for recovery of medical monitoring expenses without any injury are not allowable. (Hinton v. Monsanto Company, No. 10000599, 9/14/01).

In its opinion, the Court ruled, "To recognize medical monitoring as a distinct cause of action…would require this court to completely rewrite Alabama's tort-law system, a task akin to traveling in uncharted waters, without the benefit of a seasoned guide. We are unprepared to embark upon such a voyage."

"The Alabama court should be commended for correctly recognizing that causes of action do not generally exist under tort law, unless harm can be shown," said Sherman Joyce, president of the American Tort Reform Association. "Open-ended claims for medical monitoring are an attempt by plaintiffs' lawyers to establish a cause of action without any showing of physical injury. If new causes of action are to be created, they should be created by the state legislature."

In denying a claim for medical monitoring, the Supreme Court of Alabama was following a precedent established by the Supreme Court of the United States.

In Metro-North Commuter Railroad Co. v. Buckley (521 U.S. 424 (1997)), the Court refused to establish a medical monitoring cause of action that would have permitted completely healthy workers who had nonetheless been exposed to asbestos to recover damages.

Justice Breyer noted that the Justices were "troubled" by the "potential systematic effects of creating a new, full-blown tort law cause of action." The Court also said that such a remedy [awards for medical monitoring] could produce a "flood" of cases and result in "unlimited and unpredictable liability."