Florida appeals court sites lack of evidence
By Mary Hladky
Florida Daily Business Reviews
Thursday, February 18, 1999
A Florida appellate court has tossed out a $4 million verdict against
chemical giant DuPont Co. in the case of a young boy born without eyes.
A Miami-Dade jury decided in 1996 that the DuPont fungicide Benlate was the
cause of John Castillo's birth defect. It was the first, and so far only,
such verdict on claims that Benlate, associated with widespread crop damage,
also can cause children to be born blind.
The 3rd District Court of Appeal on Wednesday reversed, concluding there is
insufficient evidence to establish that the boy's mother, Donna Castillo,
was sprayed with Benlate. The three-judge panel also held that the
scientific evidence presented by John Castillo's lawyers should have been
excluded because the methodology used "is not generally accepted in the
relevant scientific community."
The boy's attorney, James L. Ferraro of Miami, said he would appeal the
decision to the Florida Supreme Court.
"I have always expected this would go to the Supreme Court -- one way or
another," Ferraro said.
The 3rd District opinion does not address additional evidence presented at
trial, he said. "There is a lot more to the science than what is in the
opinion," he said.
DuPont attorney Arthur England Jr. of Greenberg Traurig referred a request
for comment to a DuPont spokesman who was not available for comment.
In its appeal of the verdict, DuPont challenged the science used to convince
jurors that Benlate can cause blindness. The company's expert witness
testified it was impossible for the mother's exposure to Benlate to halt the
development of a fetus' eyes.
Donna Castillo had contended that farm workers sprayed her with chemicals
during one of her daily walks near the Pine Island Farms tomato fields in
November 1989, when she was about seven weeks pregnant with John.
Third District Judge Rodolfo Sorondo Jr., writing for the panel, held that
the scientists hired by the plaintiffs must use generally accepted
methodology. The opinion noted that even the plaintiffs' experts conceded
that the method they used in their study was novel.
Although Ferraro has filed about 20 similar suits, he said those cases will
not be affected because they are outside Florida and the jurisdiction of the
Miami-based 3rd District
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