Issue Date: March 3, 2008
Agent Orange Suits Dismissed
The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 2nd Circuit, in New York City, has upheld the dismissal of lawsuits by Vietnam War veterans who want compensation for injuries caused by exposure to agent orange during the war and by Vietnamese citizens who want the chemical companies that made agent orange to compensate them for health problems thought to be caused by it. The veterans' cases were dismissed because the court ruled that contractors for the government are protected from tort liability associated with the performance of their contracts. The Vietnam citizens' claims are based on reports that many of them have ailments caused by exposure to agent orange, including miscarriages, birth defects, breast cancer, lung cancer, and Hodgkin's disease. They want the companies to pay for health care and for environmental cleanup in Vietnam. The court ruling says the companies cannot be held liable for these problems under international law because the herbicide was used to defoliate trees, not as poison against humans. More than a dozen chemical companies were defendants, including Dow Chemical, Monsanto, Occidental Chemical, Harcros Chemicals, and Uniroyal Chemicals. Agent orange was used for several years in Vietnam and was contaminated with low-parts-per-million levels of 2,3,7,8-tetrachlorodibenzo-p-dioxin, which is alleged to have caused the illnesses.
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