In a case that stretches back nearly seven years, three farmworkers in Washington state have settled a case against the manufacturer of Phosdrin, an extremely toxic pesticide that poisoned the three plaintiffs and at least 23 others in the summer of 1993. Because of the poisonings, EPA outlawed the chemical in 1994. The plaintiffs, represented by Trial Lawyers for Public Justice, Earthjustice, and others, filed suit in 1995 seeking damages. The plaintiffs argued that Amvac Chemical Corporation, manufacturer of Phosdrin, knew full well that its product was extremely dangerous and that safety precautions wouldn't work.
A federal district court dismissed the case, but with help from Earthjustice attorney Patti Goldman it was reinstated by the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals and the Washington Supreme Court, which upheld the plaintiffs' right to sue. As the case was about to return to court for trial, a settlement was reached. "This is a case that made a huge difference," said Marcia Meade of the Spokane firm Dawson & Meade, cocounsel in the case. "It uncovered Amvac's disregard for its own employees' warnings and its willingness to market a pesticide it knew could never be used safely. It also made new law benefiting all consumers and workers in Washington."