Processing Magazine

High court refuses to hear DuPont appeal

June 14, 2006

The Associated Press reports that the U.S. Supreme Court refused without comment Monday to hear the DuPont Co.''s appeal of a lower court ruling that allowed six Hawaii plant growers to bring racketeering and fraud charges against the company for crop damage allegedly stemming from the use of the contaminated fungicide Benlate. DuPont appealed to the Supreme Court after a three-judge panel of the U.S. Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals voted unanimously in December to reinstate the suit against DuPont, reversing a federal judge''s decision. DuPont''s failure to persuade the Supreme Court to accept the case follows the appeal court''s rejection of the company''s motions to rehear the case or stay its decision. The case dates to 1994, when the Hawaii growers settled with DuPont for a combined $10 million in product liability cases before learning that the company withheld evidence of widespread contamination of Benlate with the herbicide sulfonylureas. The growers later filed suit after test data showing problems with the fungicide surfaced in other Benlate lawsuits. DuPont, which began manufacturing Benlate in the 1950s, decided to halt production in 2001 in the face of mounting crop damage claims. The company has paid more than $1 billion in settlements and legal fees on damage claims associated with Benlate. Last month, a Florida jury awarded tens of millions of dollars to a group of Costa Rican fern growers who argued that Benlate had damaged the ferns'' underground stem systems, resulting in annual crop losses that continued for years. DuPont said it would appeal that verdict. Last year, DuPont resolved 30 lawsuits involving Benlate, which has been the source of hundreds of lawsuits. In Delaware, one of three cases alleging that Benlate causes birth defects is pending before the state Supreme Court.