Global Processing

Ruling brings new life to Hawaiian suit against DuPoint

December 12, 2005

A federal appeals court has ruled that six Hawaii plant growers can bring racketeering and fraud charges against chemical maker DuPont Co. for crops they lost using a contaminated fungicide, the Associated Press reports. In a unanimous decision, three judges on the 9th U.S Circuit Court of Appeals reversed a federal judge''s dismissal of the case and reinstated the suit against the chemical manufacturer. DuPont, which produced the chemical Benlate, said in a statement it was considering an appeal to a larger panel of appellate judges or to the U.S. Supreme Court. In the 1950s, DuPont began manufacturing the fungicide, which is used to fight plant diseases, but ordered a halt to its production in 2002. It has paid more than $1 billion so far in settlements and legal fees on damage claims associated with the product. In April 1994, the group of 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. The distorted test results appeared in another trial in state court in Kona on the Big Island, in which the plaintiff, Kawamata Farms, won nearly $10 million in compensation and $14 million in punitive damages in January 1995. That prompted the group of Hawaii growers to sue DuPont once again, this time in federal court under the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act.