An Indiana appellate court recently affirmed summary judgment on behalf of The Dow Chemical Company and Dow AgroSciences, LLC (collectively "Dow"), in a personal injury lawsuit premised on alleged design defect and failure to warn claims. See Gresser et al. v. The Dow Chemical Company, Inc., et al. (Ind. Ct. App. April 30, 2013). Plaintiffs purchased a home that had been treated with the pesticide, Dursban TC. Shortly after moving into the home, plaintiffs allegedly experienced adverse health impacts that they attributed to the pesticide. Plaintiffs therefore filed product liability claims against Dow and negligence claims against the pesticide applicator.
Dow filed for summary judgment, arguing (1) that the Dursban was not a defective product and (2) that plaintiffs' claims were preempted under federal law. The trial court granted summary judgment, finding that Dursban was not a defective product and that plaintiffs' claims were preempted. On appeal, the Indiana appellate court noted that Indiana's Product Liability Act ("IPLA") provides a rebuttable presumption that a product is not defective where, before the sale, the manufacturer complies with all applicable codes, standards, regulations or specifications established by an agency of the United States or Indiana. Because Dow had registered the pesticide in compliance with the applicable FIFRA regulations, the court found that Dow was entitled to a statutory presumption that its product was not defective. Plaintiffs presented no admissible evidence to rebut this presumption, and therefore, the court found that Dow was entitled to summary judgment under the IPLA.
With respect to Dow's alternative preemption argument, however, the court found that the trial court's grant of summary judgment on this ground was improper. The court cited to Dow Chemical Co. v. Ebling, 753 N.E.2d 633 (Ind. 2001), noting that "the use of state tort law to further the dissemination of label information to persons at risk clearly facilitates rather than frustrates the objectives of FIFRA and does not burden an applicator's compliance with FIFRA."
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