The theory behind medical monitoring, also known as medical surveillance, is that plaintiffs who were exposed to harmful chemicals, but have not yet manifested any bodily injuries, may benefit from a program of specialized medical examinations. Such a program, if administered properly, will permit the earliest possible diagnosis of chemically induced illnesses and, thereby, improve the prospects for curing, treating and prolonging life, as well as minimizing pain and disability.

New Jersey was one of the first jurisdictions to recognize the novel, progressive cause of action for medical monitoring in the seminal case of Ayers v. Township of Jackson, 106 N.J. 557 (1987). Ayers involved a township’s negligent operation of a landfill, which resulted in chemical contamination of a large area of groundwater with carcinogenic compounds. The New Jersey Supreme Court declined to recognize increased risk of harm, absent bodily injury, as a tenable cause of action. However, the court felt constrained to address the “difficulty that both law and science experience in attempting to deal with the emerging complexities of industrialized society and the consequent implications for human health,” including the latency period between the exposure to a toxic chemical and the manifestation of resulting bodily injury. Thus, the independent claim of medical monitoring for plaintiffs who had not yet exhibited compensable bodily injuries was firmly established and defined.

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