Protecting Your Business From Environmental Litigation
Most environmental lawsuits can be avoided if you know what federal laws say about the environment and how your business needs to protect it. Any lawsuit can be expensive for a business, but environmental lawsuits can also hurt a brand’s reputation.
At the same time, you can only sometimes avoid lawsuits from environmental groups. Knowing the law can help you fight back against false claims. Here are some laws and acts you need to be aware of. Better knowledge can help you make a better strategy to keep your business safe.
Clean Air Act
The Clean Air Act, the Clean Water Act, and the Emergency Planning and Community Right-to-Know Act, or EPCRA, are all important laws that you should know about. The Clean Air Act, which was made a law in 1970 and updated in 1977 and 1990, tells organizations how to deal with emissions and other things that could make the air dirty.
The Environmental Protection Agency is in charge of making sure the law is followed. If a company doesn’t follow the law, the EPA can fine or punish them in other ways.
Clean Water Act
The Clean Water Act became law in 1977. In 1987, it was changed. It tells companies how they can use lakes, rivers, and other waterways. It also tries to cut down on pollution in waterways. The EPA is also in charge of enforcing the act.
EPCRA requires states to make plans for how to handle emergency situations, such as chemical spills or other things that could harm the environment and people. Companies must also follow the rules of the EPCRA, especially when it comes to warning people about possible dangers. One of the best-known examples of lawsuits that fall under the Clean Water Act is the Camp Lejeune Water contamination Lawsuit.
The drinking water supply at the Camp Lejeune Marine Corps facility in North Carolina was severely polluted with harmful, cancer-causing substances from the early 1950s until the late 1980s. The federal legislation known as the Camp Lejeune Water Act was approved in August 2022 to provide compensation to victims.
Forever Chemicals Lawsuits
In the early 2000s, more than 70,000 people from Ohio and West Virginia sued DuPont de Nemours for putting the chemical compound perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) used to make Teflon’s nonstick coating into the drinking water in their area.
As part of a lawsuit settlement, many plaintiffs agreed to get medical checks if an independent panel of epidemiologists found that exposure to PFOA was linked to human disease.
Now, in state and federal courts in the United States, the number of cases about the production and use of per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) is going up. PFAS are man-made chemicals that don’t break down, which is why they’re called “forever chemicals.”
Some studies have found links between some PFAS and health problems. With the recent rise in lawsuits about PFAS, the number of plaintiffs has grown, from owners of places where PFAS are made to owners of places, like air bases, that only use materials that contain PFAS.
Your business being sued is the last thing you want to hear. Lawsuits can cost a lot of money, time, and reputation, and they can also cause a lot of stress for everyone involved. Some businesses have also gone out of business because of them.
Tips to Keep Your Business Safe
You should do everything you can to reduce the chance of getting sued. These tips could help you and your business stay safe.
1. Write Down Agreements and Keep Records of Them
Signed agreements and good record-keeping can be lifesavers for your business. They can help settle disputes and make sure everyone knows their rights and responsibilities if you get sued.
An attorney can advise you on the formal contracts you require, such as regular sales and contractual relations and employment contracts, but you should also record critical details for each business transaction.
For instance, list the goods or services you’ll offer, their price, and the date they’ll be delivered. Keep all relevant documents, including emails and call logs, in case an issue arises.
2. Protect Your Reputation
Businesses depend on their reputations, so it’s important to be honest with your employees, customers, competitors, and the community at large. If you say you will do something, follow through.
If you make a promise, keep it. If you break the rules or lie about your business, products, or abilities, people might not trust you, you might lose business, and you might even get sued. Being honest and having integrity will help your business grow and succeed.
3. Employ Sound Employment Practices
There are a lot of state and federal laws that govern the workplace, including laws about harassment, discrimination, and your employees’ right to privacy. It is important to know these laws and follow them. Methods of hiring Liability insurance can help protect you if one of your employees says you did something wrong at work.
Make sure you know which laws affect your business and what each one requires. Then make and follow the rules to make sure your business is compliant with the necessary laws. In this area, a human resources consultant or an employment lawyer can be very helpful.
4. Be Ready With A Lawyer
If you have a business and a legal problem comes up, having a lawyer you can talk to about important questions can keep you from getting sued.
Look for a reputable lawyer who knows a lot about the size of your business and can help you stay on the right side of the law and spot problems before they get out of hand. To keep costs low, you could work with a lawyer on a consulting basis, where you do the work, and the lawyer looks over it or gives you advice.
5. Keep Your Personal Money Separate From Your Business Money
A lot of small businesses are run by one person. This may be the easiest and least expensive way to start and run a business, but it also comes with what some might consider a major drawback: if a lawsuit is brought against the business, the owner is personally responsible.
Setting up your business as a limited liability company (LLC) or corporation may be a good way to protect your personal assets from any liability lawsuits that may be filed against your business. You should talk to your lawyer about the benefits of this kind of structure.
What Comes Next For Lawsuits Against Businesses
Last year, there were more climate cases against corporations than ever before. Litigants seem to be making more and more connections between the ongoing public debates about how consumer and lifestyle choices can help reduce emissions and the widespread worry that industry misinformation and inaction could stop these choices from making a real difference.
Even though it’s hard to know for sure what will happen in the future, the rise in lawsuits against agricultural companies may mean that other industries with a lot of pollution, like textiles and shipping, will be next.
There are also many other federal, state, and local laws and rules about the environment. Businesses can protect themselves by talking to lawyers about how to handle environmental law issues.
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