A lawsuit was settled recently involving a three-year-old child who had a birth defect that left him with no legs, no right arm and a short bud for a left arm. The child’s migrant worker parents settled their lawsuit last month with Ag-Mart Produce, a Florida-based agricultural company. The company sells fruits and vegetables under the name Santa Sweets. It was alleged that the parents’ working in Ag-Mart tomato fields and exposure to pesticides caused their child’s defects.
The child’s parents say their son is representative of many more children affected by pesticides, but their families are afraid to come forward. Deplorable conditions in farm work were disclosed by this lawsuit. It was said that farm workers in many states are exposed to pesticides on a daily basis. The parents picked tomatoes in Florida and in North Carolina for Ag-Mart before and after the mother became pregnant. The couple filed suit in 2006. The confidential settlement was approved by a state court judge. The terms of the settlement were sealed by the court with the settlement dollars put in protected trust funds for the benefit of the child.
This child was one of three babies born with severe birth defects within a seven-week period. All three of the mothers worked in the same tomato field and all three lived within 100 yards of one another. It was alleged that Ag-Mart managers did not adhere to seven-day waiting periods after spraying and before sending workers to pick crops. Sometimes, according to the plaintiffs, workers were sent into the fields the day after spraying. At other times, it was said that crops were sprayed with pesticides while workers were in the fields.
Agricultural officials said spot checks found no illegal pesticide residues. In 2005, North Carolina and Florida hit Ag-Mart with nearly 400 citations and fined the company about $300,000 for pesticide mis-use from 1999 through 2003. In December, a judge in North Carolina recommended the dismissal of 271 of the pesticide violations. In March, an administrative judge in Tampa threw out almost all of the Florida charges, citing a lack of evidence. Ag-Mart has changed its pesticide practices. In 2005, company officials said Ag-Mart would discontinue use of five of the six traditional agricultural chemicals known to cause birth defects.
Source: Tampa Tribune
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