Enviroterrorism Part II. (Rules & Regulations)

By Guida, Joseph F. | Risk Management, September 2002 | Go to article overview

Enviroterrorism Part II. (Rules & Regulations)


Guida, Joseph F., Risk Management


As the country reevaluates its vulnerability to terrorist threats, it confronts the possibility of biological, chemical or radiological agents being deliberately released into the environment, a threat known as enviroterrorism. Individual companies must consider the legal liabilities that an enviroterrorist attack could entail for them.

Last month, "Part I" covered how businesses that do not take precautions for enviroterrorism could conceivably be held responsible for damages to employees' health, as well as to water and air quality. This month, we continue by discussing common-law obligations, reporting requirements and duties of disclosure.

Common-Law Duties

The success of common-law negligence claims typically depends on whether a defendant exercised due care in connection with acts or omissions that resulted in damage to a plaintiff. The fact that the average person is fully aware of the possibility of terrorism raises some liability questions. Is it reasonable to expect that a company will evaluate its activities and operations in light of reasonably foreseeable terrorism-related dangers to its employees, customers, vendors and the public? Will common-law standards of care one day encompass minimizing harm to people and property after a terrorist act the same way that standards evolved decades ago in connection with the crash sustainability of automobiles?

In response to such questions, companies should consider reasonable precautions to avoid or minimize Such dangers. Antiterrorism audits might one day become a significant liability prevention tool, just as environmental audits now function in certain industries.

Regulatory Reporting

Regulated businesses typically provide both routine and episodic reports to state and federal agencies regarding environmental releases and chemical management. The government and regulatory communities will each carefully consider the content of these reports. A balance must be struck between public safety concerns and companies' right to maintain trade secrets and confidential business information. …

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