In 1997 six British families set out to battle a huge multinational corporation over the deaths and serious birth defects of their children. The plaintiffs, from New Zealand and England, contended that exposure to Benlate, one of DuPont’s most successful fungicides, caused their children to be born with eye abnormalities. Eleven years later, two families finally obtained confidential settlements from DuPont.
Karen Ison was exposed to Benlate while working as a parks worker before the birth of her son, Blake, in 1993. As a result, Blake was born without eyes and with a double cleft palate. Two other children born to park staff around the same time also suffered birth defects. Seven-year-old Jesse Hanham, also born with eye abnormalities caused by Benlate exposure, died in 1998. His mother, Andrea Reilly, filed a wrongful death suit.
Benlate was introduced in 1970 and was considered one of DuPont’s most successful fungicides; its active ingredient is benomyl. In 1989 and 1991 DuPont recalled their dry-flowable Benlate 50 DF due to the presence of the herbicide atrazine in some lots. Subsequent to the recall, the corporation faced hundreds of claims of growers blaming Benlate 50 DF for crop damage. In 2000, DuPont was ordered to pay over $100 million to two Texas fruit companies for damage to their orchards caused by Benlate dust. The company also had to pay $10.2 million and $12.3 million to Ecuadorian shrimp farmers. DuPont stopped selling Benlate worldwide in 2001.
The eleven year old battle between DuPont and the injured families went to the U.S. Supreme Court three times before DuPont announced a tentative settlement of $9 million last May for the original six families and the other 26 who contended Benlate also caused birth defects in their children. While the payouts to the individual plaintiffs were not that large, the Isons and the other plaintiffs believe that they succeeded in their main goal. They wanted to have Benlate pulled off the market, so that no one else would have to go through what they had experienced.
Source: Associated Press
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