Anita J. Patel


One of the fundamental principles of tort law is that a plaintiff cannot recover without a present physical injury. As society evolved and latent injuries became more prevalent, tort law failed to provide relief because of its present injury requirement. The consequence of this gap in recovery meant that plaintiffs who were exposed to toxic chemicals but could not afford to undergo periodic testing to detect latent injuries would have to wait until the injury manifested itself in order for plaintiffs to bring claims for recovery. Unfortunately, this passage of time can have detrimental effects on the plaintiff and result in a more severe outcome than if the injury were detected in its early stages. Policy considerations regarding the benefit of early detection and diagnosis of disease and the deterrent effects of imposing liability on defendants convinced some states to adopt medical monitoring. Medical monitoring allows plaintiffs to receive compensation for future diagnostic testing that is reasonably necessary to detect latent injuries that may develop after exposure to toxic substances. Medical monitoring can be viewed as a cause of action or a form of relief. In both instances, the goal is to allow plaintiffs who have been exposed to toxins that enhance the plaintiffs' risk of disease to be compensated for periodic diagnostic testing in order to detect disease early. In Meyer v. Fluor Corp., the Missouri Supreme Court was the first court in Missouri to hold that medical monitoring was available as a form of damages in the state. By allowing recovery for medical monitoring without a present injury, Missouri has joined several states in allowing for the expansion of traditional tort law. Critics argue that this expansion of tort law will lead to a flood of litigation and should be left to the legislature. However, the Meyer court correctly decided to allow relief on the basis that the underlying principles of tort law and medical monitoring are the same and plaintiffs whose interests were invaded should be able to recover.

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