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Arnold v. Dow Chem. Co. - 91 Cal. App. 4th 698, 110 Cal. Rptr. 2d 722 (2001)

Rule:

Failure-to-warn claims are preempted by the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA), 7 U.S.C.S. § 136v, state common law design defect claims are not subject to FIFRA preemption.

Facts:

Plaintiffs Ashley and Alexa Arnold, two minors, brought an action by and through Michelle Arnold, as a guardian ad litem, against pesticide manufacturers and distributors, Q.B. Scott Company, Inc. (Scott), Lumber City Corporation (Lumber City), Ezell Nursery Supply, Inc. (Ezell), Dow Agrosciences, LLC, and The Dow Chemical Company (collectively referred to as Dow), Van Waters & Rogers, Inc. (Van Waters), FMC Corporation (FMC), and Bayer Corporation (Bayer); collectively referred to as defendants alleging that defendants’ products, used in Arnolds’ home, caused Alexa to suffer an intrauterine stroke and Ashley to suffer pancreatitis and hepatitis. The trial court granted defendants’ summary judgment motions, ruling that the preemption provisions of the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA) (7 U.S.C. § 136 et seq.) operated to foreclose the Arnolds’ claims. The Arnolds appealed.

Issue:

Did the preemption provisions of the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act (7 U.S.C. § 136v FIFRA) operate to foreclose the Arnolds’ state common law causes of action based on a failure to warn on labels approved by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)?

Answer:

Yes

Conclusion:

The appellate court concluded that the trial court erred in granting summary judgment on the claims for strict liability and breach of implied warranties of fitness and merchantability, concluding that he Arnolds’ claims that the products were defectively designed were in fact not labeling claims, and thus, did not interfere with the EPA’s power to regulate labeling of the pesticide products. Therefore, the state common law strict liability claim was not preempted by FIFRA. Lack of privity did not bar the family's claim for breach of the implied warranties, nor were those claims preempted by FIFRA.

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