Hundreds of individually named Philippine banana plantation workers alleging physical and mental injury from exposure to pesticides have filed suit against a number of agricultural and chemical companies in a California state court seeking compensatory and punitive damages. Macasa v. Dole Food Co., No. BC467134 (Cal. Super. Ct., Los Angeles County, filed August 8, 2011). The plaintiffs allege that 1,2-Dibromo-3-chloropropane (DBCP), sold under the brand names Nemagon® and Fumazone®, is a “highly toxic and poisonous pesticide” that purportedly causes “sterility, testicular atrophy, miscarriages, congenital reproductive outcome, liver damage, asthma and various forms of cancer in humans when absorbed by the skin or inhaled.” They claim that DBCP continued to be used in the Philippines despite being banned in the United States by the Environmental Protection Agency in 1979.
The complaint alleges that the U.S. Department of Agriculture advised the chemical company defendants as early as 1961 “to place precautionary warning labels” on DBCP pesticide barrels and requested the health records of workers who had manufactured or formulated products containing the chemical. Claiming that the companies “dismissed such advice,” the plaintiffs further contend that a 1977 Occupational Safety and Health Administration warning letter finally brought about a suspension in DBCP’s production, although the companies “continued to allow the marketing, distribution and sale of the DBCP in question to Davao, Philippines,” where the banana farm defendants continued to use it. The plaintiffs allege products liability—negligence, strict products liability, products liability—defect in design and manufacture and chemical composition, products liability—breach of warranty, fraudulent management, fraudulent concealment, general negligence, conspiracy, and intentional misrepresentation.