In the most basic of terms, under Illinois law municipalities have an overarching responsibility to protect their residents. This includes the responsibility to enact and enforce laws to protect their constituents, as well as ensuring that government-provided utilities are safe for use by members of the community. When a particular city fails in its obligations to implement these precautionary measures, and individuals are harmed as a result, the city may be legally responsible for the harm caused.
A resident of Sauk Village, Illinois is alleging just that. According to the Chicago Tribune, recently, a man filed a Chicago personal injury lawsuit in Cook County Circuit Court, alleging that the Sauk Village was negligent in providing the community with water that was contaminated with the carcinogen vinyl chloride. The Illinois personal injury claim details the fact that the man was diagnosed with cancer of the larynx in April 2012, and alleges that the cancer was caused by the polluted drinking water made available by the city.
An important factor in determining liability on the part of the city for the poisoned water is the fact that village officials were informed in 2009 by the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency (IEPA) that one of the town’s wells was contaminated with vinyl chloride, reports the Chicago Tribune. The town consequently closed down that well while the IEPA tested water in the city’s two remaining wells.
On Monday, the IEPA announced that the level of the cancer-causing chemical in Sauk Village’s water supply is currently at the point at which residents needed to be notified, and, while the Illinois Department of Public Health said the level is safe to drink, village board members agreed to buy $37,000 worth of bottled water, which will be handed out to residents at a local community center.
Nevertheless, the subsequent remedial measures of bottled water do not excuse past liability. The Chicago Tribune reports that the first count of the man’s suit claims that he did not have “sufficient information or knowledge that he was injured and that the injury was caused by the wrongful acts of others.” The second cause of action alleged is a claim on behalf of the man’s wife; under Illinois law, family members and loved ones of someone killed by another’s negligence can file a claim to potentially make the wrongdoer pay damages for things such as the loss of companionship, monetary damages to cover the earnings the deceased person would have provided, and expenses associated with the death such as funeral and burial costs. Although the man is currently still alive, if the cancer caused by the polluted water leads to his death, his wife may be able to recover for the loss of her husband.
The state of Illinois currently has a lawsuit pending against Sauk Village over the contamination the wells in question. If you or a loved one have been affected by the town’s carcinogenic water, seek medical attention immediately. Additionally, an attorney may be able to advise you of your rights under the law.