Amusement Park Visit was a Gas!

In June 2009, Kent and Jennifer Higgins and family visited Santa Claus, an Indiana amusement park owned and operated by the Koch Development Corp. The filter pump connected to the park’s lazy river malfunctioned. As staff worked to fix the problem, pool chemicals–bleach and hydrochloric acid–accumulated in the pump. When the pump restarted, the chemicals discharged into the water and a cloud of chlorine gas was released into the air. The Higginses were not nearby, but their niece was, and they received a cell phone call, prompting them to head in that direction.
When they arrived, Kent Higgins inhaled an unspecified amount of lingering chemical fumes. Complaining of chest tightness, burning eyes, shortness of breath, and nausea, Higgins visited the emergency room, where he was diagnosed with “mild chemical exposure” and discharged with instructions to follow up with his primary care physician.
Higgins saw a pulmonologist later that summer, but waited more than a year before consulting his primary physician. He was diagnosed with reactive airways dysfunction syndrome and chronic asthma more than 14 months after the incident. In his negligence suit, the court disqualified Higgins’s expert concerning causation.
The Seventh Circuit affirmed and agreed that the causation issue was too complex for an unassisted jury and that Higgins’s treating physician’s qualifications and methodology were too uncertain to permit her to opine on such matters.