Dozens of farmers from Argentina have filed lawsuits in Delaware court, claiming that tobacco manufacturers such as Phillip Morris knowingly poisoned them with pesticides and causing "devastating birth defects" in their children.
The farmers, who worked on small family farms in Misiones, a rural northeastern province, grew tobacco for U.S. distributors. Their lawsuit is aimed not only at Phillip Morris, but also at Carolina Leaf Tobacco, Universal Leaf Tobacco Company, and Monsanto, among other companies. The farmers argue that these companies made the farmers switch from a native brand of tobacco to a special Phillip Morris brand that required more pesticides. The companies then pushed for the farmers to use excessive pesticides and herbicides, especially Roundup, an herbicide that has been discussed in this blog.
The farmers allege that none of the companies ever warned them about the dangers of using Roundup, or glyphosate, in quantities greater than the recommended amount. Their 55-page complaint claims that the companies pushed for pesticide and herbicide use even though they were on notice that the farmers lacked the necessary protective gear. Lacking training in chemical disposal, farmers ended up disposing of excess pesticides into areas that had contact with the water supply. The result was that their babies showed an alarming number of birth defects, including cerebral palsy, spina bifida, missing fingers, blindness, and congenital heart defects.
For the harm they suffered, the farmers as a group seek compensatory and punitive relief for under the following theories: negligence, product liability, breach of warranty, ultra hazardous activity, aiding and abetting, willful and wanton misconduct and violations of Argentine laws.
It remains to be seen if the farmers are successful, but the harmful effects of Roundup are already known. Here in the United States, there have been community movements to get rid of the herbicide, which also poses a risk of birth defects here. If you live in the U.S. and have a child with a birth defect that you believe was caused by herbicides, like the Argentinean farmers, you can sue for relief under multiple theories. Most theories will likely be found under tort law, such as negligence, product liability, and breach of warranty (which is actually a theory under contract law, but is often included with tort claims). The factors for negligence and product liability are similar -- the alleged offender must have a duty to you, have breached that duty, the breach must have injured you, and you suffered damage as a result. The main difference is that with product liability, the offender can be guilty of a breach even if he or she were not negligent.
The birth defect attorneys at Oshman & Mirisola, LLP have successfully represented clients in birth defect lawsuits for more than 35 years. If your child has a birth defect that you believe may be due to exposure to Roundup or other toxic herbicides, please contact us today at (800) 400-8182 or submit our online Contact Us form.