The LegalNewsline article focuses on the potential for toxicogenomics in causation, pointing to better evidence in linking exposure to disease. When science links exposure to disease, this should lead to an explosion in litigation. By the same token, science can lead to better evidence in defense of a toxicant-exposure case.
While all this remains to be seen, the impacts will not be felt merely in causation. Litigation outcomes inform future courses of action for people not parties to the action (or so we learned in torts class). Indeed, is it that hard to imagine that certain employers could require genome testing of their employees? After all, one central theme of products liability is imagining all the inane things that a potential plaintiff could do and defending design in a court. Isn’t a failure to warn claim really a “you should have protected me from myself” claim. Certainly you can see a plaintiff testifying in a case of occupational exposure that his employer should have protected him from his genetic predispositions. Employer-mandated pre-employment genetic testing would be a reasonable means of defense in a lawsuit, but there certainly would be some resistance to this cellular “love pat.”
I would hazard a guess that within ten years, we will see the first wave of pre-employment genome screening. Removal of asbestos from products and warnings on cigarette packs demand this. I’m just glad that, as a lawyer, I personally don’t have to worry about occupational exposure to anything but stress, but maybe the bar will start genome testing for pre-disposition toward substance abuse. Until then, products like Four Loko should be banned from the market. Right?