Product Liability Claims Arising from Pesticides

Pesticides are chemicals that kill or repel insects, animals, and plants that may damage crops, invade buildings, or spread disease to humans. While pesticides are meant to deter pests and problematic plants, they can have dangerous effects on humans as well. Sometimes manufacturers provide inadequate safety warnings with their pesticides or fail to test their products adequately before putting them on the market. When individuals are injured as a result, these victims may be able to bring suit against the manufacturer or seller of the pesticides based on a theory of product liability.

Pesticide Exposure

People can be exposed to potentially harmful pesticides in a number of ways:

  • Home use by landlords, homeowners, neighbors and landscapers
  • Workplace use, when employers treat their offices with pesticides that employees may inhale or touch
  • Use by government agencies in public parks
  • Drifting pesticide spray or liquid run-off from farms
  • Contamination of groundwater, drinking water, and food products such as fruits and vegetables

Types of Pesticides and Common Symptoms

Three types of chemicals make up the vast majority of common pesticides. Each of these chemicals has a similar but distinguishable set of health effects that can from exposure:

  • Carbamates: A carbamate is a type of chemical found in common insecticide sprays and baits for cockroaches, ants, fleas and other bugs. Exposure to carbamates can cause muscle weakness, blurred vision, headache, nausea, and abdominal pain. In extreme cases, exposure can cause high blood pressure, nervous system problems such as seizures, and breathing problems.
  • Organophosphates: The most common type of insecticide and herbicide, organophosphates are chemicals used to kill a wide range of insects and weeds. Exposure can cause muscle twitching, headache, nausea, abdominal cramps, breathing problems, and blurred vision. Severe cases can involve seizures and loss of consciousness.
  • Pyrethrins/Pyrethroids: Often found in household insect sprays, pyrethrins and pyrethroids are related chemicals usually used to kill plant-eating insects. Exposure to these pesticides can cause skin and eye irritation, headache, dizziness, and nausea. Severe reactions can include fluid buildup in the lungs, muscle twitching, and seizures.

Product Liability and Pesticides

People who are exposed to harmful pesticides and suffer adverse health effects may be able to recover damages for their injuries under product liability law. Pesticide manufacturers must take precautions, such as properly testing their pesticides, in order to prevent users from suffering injuries through the normal use of their products. When pesticides turn out to be more harmful than expected, and consumers suffer injuries as a result, the manufacturers may be liable for negligence for not fulfilling this duty. In such cases, injured consumers may be able to recover damages related to their injuries.

Even if manufacturers know all of the health risks involved, they must give adequate warnings to consumers about how to guard against those risks when using the product. These warnings must be easy enough to understand so that average consumers can adequately protect themselves from the pesticide’s potentially harmful effects. Manufacturers that fail to properly warn consumers about the precautions needed to prevent injury can be liable for a warning defect under product liability law.

Proving a Pesticide Product Liability Case

Individuals harmed by pesticides have two hurdles to overcome in order to bring a product liability lawsuit. First, they must identify the specific chemical that caused their injuries. This can be especially difficult for victims who may have been exposed to multiple pesticides or other chemicals, such as farmers who use different forms of pest control or factory workers who manufacture several types of chemicals.

Second, the injured parties must show a connection between the chemical in question and the specific health issues they are experiencing. This is difficult because severe complications, such as cancer, can have multiple possible causes. Additionally, serious health effects caused by long-term exposure to pesticides may not show up until years after the exposure occurred, further complicating a pesticide product liability case.

If you’ve suffered adverse health effects from exposure to pesticides, contact a product liability lawyer to determine your legal options. A lawyer can also help determine if you may have other legal claims in addition to a product liability claim, such as a claim for nuisance or trespass for pesticides drifting onto your property from somewhere else.

Next Steps

Contact a qualified product liability attorney to make sure your rights are protected.

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