Mexican Pesticide Victims File Suit in U.S. Court
July 20, 1993
A lawsuit was filed in Jefferson County, Texas on May
3, 1993, naming E.I. Du Pont de Nemours, ICI and two Mexican
firms responsible for damages suffered by nine individuals
as a result of a pesticide disaster in Mexico in 1991.
PAN Mexico, Red de Accion sobre Plaguicidas y
Alternativas en Mexico (RAPAM), needs to identify a larger
international network of scientists, lawyers, physicians and
victims to support their lawsuit. Anyone who can provide
assistance is asked to contact RAPAM directly.
On May 3, 1991 a fire at the pesticide formulation and
storage facility, Agricultura Nacional de Veracruz, SA
(ANAVERSA), in Cordoba, Veracruz resulted in one of Mexico's
worst pesticide disasters (see GPC 5/92). More than 500
people were sickened by toxic clouds from the fire in which
an estimated 18,000 liters of methyl parathion, 8,000 liters
of paraquat, 3,000 liters of 2,4-D and 1,500 liters of
pentachlorophenol, among other chemicals, were released.
Long term health and environmental effects have only been
partially documented, largely through voluntary efforts.
Traditionally, victims of exported hazardous products
have had little hope of going to court to obtain fair
compensation for personal injuries or environmental damage.
However, in 1990 the Texas Supreme Court established a
precedent by allowing Costa Rican banana workers injured by
U.S.-exported DBCP to seek damages from Dow and Shell in
Texas state court. This provided an opportunity for foreign
victims such as the ANAVERSA case plaintiffs to file suit in
Texas court. Of course, this decision had powerful
opponents, and the Texas legislature responded by changing
state law to allow courts to use the legal doctrine of forum
non conveniens to dismiss cases by foreign plaintiffs
(effective September 1, 1993). Louisiana is now the only
U.S. state that does not recognize this doctrine. Thus,
people in other countries who are harmed by U.S. products
still have virtually no opportunity to successfully file
suit against the manufacturers in U.S. courts.
Sources: Benton Musslewhite (attorney representing the
plaintiffs); Jorge Arturo de Leon, Universidad Nacional
Autonoma de Mexico.
Contact: Susana Franco, RAPAM, Vesubio No. 57, Col. Alpes,
01010 Mexico City, D.F., Mexico; phone (52-5) 593-7659; fax
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