Administrative Law | Torts
Latent harms pose unique challenges for the legal system. Such issues are often referred to as long-tail issues, wherein the actual harmful chain of events is set in motion years before it is discovered and wreaks havoc. Asbestos is one example. Pyrrhotite is another.
A seemingly innocuous mineral, pyrrhotite has infiltrated Connecticut homes. Somewhere between 3,000 to 35,000 concrete foundations were poured in the state from 1983 to 2016, with varying amounts of pyrrhotite trapped within. These foundations have begun to deteriorate, costing homeowners thousands of dollars as their investments quite literally crumble beneath their feet. While the problem was little known in the 1980s, subsequent research has brought to light much more information about this mineral and its consequences for construction. Some of this research was inspired and necessitated by Connecticut’s ongoing crisis.
As homeowners gradually became aware of this crisis, they sought relief through the various legal avenues available—imploring the torts system, their insurance providers, and the state and federal government for relief. While each system afforded discrete relief to homeowners, no system functioned perfectly. This Note surveys the relief these systems afforded to homeowners, evaluates each system’s functionality, and observes opportunities for harmonizing and enhancing legal relief.
These findings will be particularly useful in confronting long-tail crises, including those which may be created, accelerated, or aggravated by climate catastrophe. Viewing this crisis as a model to assess how our existing legal systems can provide relief more effectively will better equip the state to confront future crises. By learning from previous crises how we can unite and mobilize our legal avenues as events unfold, we will be better prepared to respond to long-tail crises to come.
Bashaw, Jacqueline T., "Connecticut’s Crumbling Foundations: Legal Remedies and Legislative Responses" (2023). Connecticut Law Review. 575.