A recently concluded Dicamba lawsuit in Florida has uncovered disturbing evidence of a fraudulent risk assessment procedure utilized by the maker of Dicamba, a well-known herbicide. Dicamba is marketed under several names, including Master Cleanser, Master Garden Organic, Gardenia and Detail Flowers. In addition to selling this herbicide, the manufacturers sell other products that use various forms of herbicides, including foliage sanitizers, citrus fruits and several different brands of weed killers. In its ingredient list, Dicamba includes glycyrrhizin hydrochloride, which is also included in a variety of pesticides and insecticides.
At the time of the lawsuit’s discovery phase, the Florida jury found that Dicamba was intended to be used as an herbicide and not a pesticide, even though the label on its container indicated otherwise. The jury’s findings of fact contained numerous references to both the dangers of using the herbicide and the likelihood of causing harm to the plaintiff. For example, the verdict stated, “If a person ingested [the herbicide] and ate or absorbed it in any way, Dicamba may cause severe health consequences, including death.” Although a reasonable person could disagree with the jury’s finding that Dicamba was inherently dangerous, the fact that the manufacturer did not include warnings about the potential for serious health risks does not mitigate the harm a reasonable person would suffer if exposed to Dicamba.
While the jury awarded a verdict against Dicamba, it was not the only verdict against the defendant. A Missouri court had previously awarded a $1.75 million dollar verdict against Dicamba, and the manufacturer was ordered to pay that sum plus legal fees. The Missouri court found that Dicamba was inadequately regulated when it was sold, and that the Food and Drug Administration had not set standards for adequate protection against adverse reactions to the herbicide. While the jury awarded a damages amount that was less than the statutory maximum allowed under the regulations, it noted that “a reasonable person would be expected to foresee foreseeable adverse health and economic consequences if [the herbicide] is used as directed.”
Because the manufacturer did not include a warning about the serious side effects Dicamba can have on human health, the verdict may stand. Additionally, because the company’s own lax enforcement efforts resulted in the current crisis, the case may now be moot. However, because of the ties between the pharmaceutical industry and the Bush administration, any threats to the financial stability of the pharmaceutical industry could easily impact the pending dicamba litigation. The company’s ties to the Bush administration are also likely to become a major issue during trial.
There are a number of upcoming dicamba lawsuit plaintiffs. Plaintiffs in at least two of the three major seed and pesticide companies have filed lawsuits against the manufacturer over alleged dicamba crop damage cases. The two plaintiffs are Farmers’ Cooperative, and Soybean Growers of America. The plaintiffs in these cases argue that the defendants failed to warn them that their products contained the herbicide at levels well above the amount that would be toxic to humans. These lawsuits are currently pending.
If you have been injured due to improper use of dicamba formulations, you may be eligible for punitive damages. In order to win a case for punitive damages, your attorney will need to prove that the defendant “knows or should have known” that its products were dangerous. Punitive damages come in many forms and can be awarded for various factors such as product liability, negligence, strict liability, and emotional distress. You should consult with an attorney experienced in cases similar to yours to discuss your personal situation and how you can obtain compensation for your injuries. You may also want to discuss the potential impact of a jury verdict on your ability to obtain compensation.