Saturday, June 04, 2005

Pesticides in court

At the end of April the US Supreme Court, by a 7 - 2 decision, ruled that consumers could sue pesticide manufacturers for harms caused to them or their properties (.pdf of opinion here).

Texas peanut farmers whose crops were destroyed by Dow Chemical's Stongarm herbicide were the plaintiffs in Bates v. Dow AgroSciences LLC. Dow's defense was joined by the Bush Administration (surprise!), claiming that the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA) prevented such suits (that's what the law is for, right?). Dissent came from the Bobsey Twins, Justices Scalia and Thomas.

This decision appears to leave the courthouse door open to citizens whose lives, property and well-being have been harmed by negligent or fraudulent actions of a pesticide manufacturer. Which is as it should be. It is a sign of how far down we have come that such a reasonable and just decision should be thought a victory.