Cancer Caused by Soil Contamination Results in $63M Verdict

Most of us go about our daily tasks at home without thinking anything of it. Reseeding lawns, digging out and planting new bushes, growing a vegetable garden…these are all things that many homeowners do on a regular basis. Kids play in the yards, maybe even digging and building playhouses or forts. In the case of Taylor Ernst’s client, he was doing all of these things, having purchased the land and built his home back in 1985. What he was not aware of was that his land had previously been used by oil companies to hold tanks and sumps, and had never been remediated when graded and sold to developers. He lived at the property from 1985-1987, never knowing that it was on soil contaminated by oil waste. He developed a form of blood cancer that affects the bone marrow, multiple myeloma, in late 2014. 

It wasn’t until the client’s son happened to go by the old property in 2019  and saw that it had been demolished that he started doing some research and suspected that his cancer was caused by living on top of a contamination site. He had learned that a member of another family had developed leukemia and that they believed it to have been caused by the contamination. Given that these oil companies were now purchasing and tearing down houses and removing tons of soil, it was pretty clear that the contamination was bad. This is when the client retained Ernst Law Group, who began discovery on the case. The kind of cancer he was diagnosed with is caused by the specific contamination found in the soil, and the tank had been located directly below his property. 

Focus Graphics had previously done work for Mr. Ernst, and he contacted us to develop an animation showing the location of the tank, overlaying the home location to show that it was directly below his client’s property. He also wanted to show the various activities the client and his family had done on the property that would increase exposure to the contaminated soil. The animation was a pivotal piece of making the lawyers confident enough to take it to trial where a $63 million verdict was returned in favor of their client.

After using Focus Graphics for a case where the incorrect placement of a hose caused an injury, I knew they’d be able to realize my vision of an animation depicting how the soil contamination could have caused my client’s cancer. A lot of time had passed, but our expert was confident that this cancer was caused by the soil contamination, and we prevailed. Sadly, that won’t change the outcome for our client since it is a terminal cancer, but it helps ease the financial burden of his care.” 

Attorney Taylor Ernst standing in a library

~Taylor Ernst, Esq., San Luis Obispo, CA | Ernst Law Group


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