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Sunday, June 16, 2024 | Back issues
Courthouse News Service Courthouse News Service

Chemical Companies Win 3 Agent Orange Rulings

NEW YORK (CN) - Dow Chemical, Monsanto and other manufacturers of Agent Orange, the toxic defoliant used in the Vietnam War, won three rulings in the 2nd Circuit dismissing lawsuits brought by U.S. veterans and Vietnamese citizens who say they were injured by the herbicide.

In Isaacson v. Dow Chemical Co., Judge Hall upheld summary judgment for the chemical companies in the lawsuit filed by veterans. Between 1964 and 1971, the U.S. military sprayed nearly 19 million gallons of Agent Orange in Southeast Asia to prevent enemies from taking cover in the dense, jungle-like forests. Studies suggest the chemical mixture may be linked to a variety of cancers and other health problems.

Veterans won a $180 million class settlement in 1984, and followed up with individual lawsuits in state courts. Those cases were later removed to a federal court in New York and consolidated.

After more than a decade of litigation, the district court granted summary judgment to the defendants. On appeal, the veterans argued that the district court lacked jurisdiction over their claims. But the three-judge panel unanimously ruled that the chemical companies had acted as federal officers, so removal was proper.

The court also ruled that defendant chemical companies are not liable to a group of Vietnamese plaintiffs under the Alien Tort Statute, because Agent Orange was not used as a war weapon. Vietnamese Association for Victims of Agent Orange v. Dow Chemical rejected plaintiffs' argument that the chemical companies were guilty of aiding and abetting the U.S. government's violations of international law.

Finally, in Twinam v. Dow Chemical, the appeals court concluded that the defendants are shielded by the government contractor defense for their role in making the harmful chemical.

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