USA/VIETNAM: MANUFACTURERS OF AGENT ORANGE SEEK TO DISMISS NEW YORK-LAWSUIT FILED ON BEHALF OF VIETNAMESE PEOPLE WHO CLAIM IT CAUSED DEFORMITIESRecord ID: 677425
- Title: USA/VIETNAM: MANUFACTURERS OF AGENT ORANGE SEEK TO DISMISS NEW YORK-LAWSUIT FILED ON BEHALF OF VIETNAMESE PEOPLE WHO CLAIM IT CAUSED DEFORMITIES
- Date: 28th February 2005
- Summary: NEW YORK CITY, NEW YORK, USA (FILE FEBRUARY 2004) (REUTERS ) CU LAWSUIT (2 SHOTS)
- Reuters ID: LVAC2DNRFFYHTFAD86WZEYMAK6JM
- Location: NEW YORK CITY, NEW YORK + UNIDENTIFIED LOCATION, USA / UNIDENTIFIED LOCATION, VIETNAM
- Country: USA
- Duration: 00:00:09
- Topics: Conflict,General
- Story Text: Manufacturers of Agent Orange seek to dismiss New
York-lawsuit filed on behalf of Vietnamese people who claim
it caused deformities.
Manufacturers of the chemical Agent Orange, used by
US troops during the Vietnam war, tried to get a lawsuit
seeking compensation for Vietnamese victims dismissed on
Monday (February 28).
Lawyers for the chemical companies argued during the
first oral hearings before a federal judge in New York
City, that they had not committed war crimes by supplying
the US military with Agent Orange.
But on his way into the hearing in Brooklyn, one of the
lawyers for the Vietnamese victims, John Moore, said the
chemical companies should be held accountable for producing
"We are only suing the chemical companies, we can't sue
the government they are immune, unfortunately, they should
be called to task as well as these chemical companies,"
He added that the chemical companies knew that Agent
Orange was highly poisonous, but they continued to make it
for profits, "They did it and they knew they were doing it
and they continued to do it and they did it because they
wanted to make money," he said.
The lawsuit names dozens of chemical companies, the
biggest among them being Dow Chemical and Monsanto.
Agent Orange, a powerful herbicide, was dumped from US
warplanes on Vietnamese forests between 1962 and 1971, in
an attempt to destroy the Vietcong's source of food and
It is now claimed that a by-product of Agent Orange,
dioxin, caused birth defects, cancer and other diseases.
Lawyers for the Vietnamese people claim that babies are
still being born with horrific abnormalities, due to
One of the plaintiffs, Dr Phan Thi Phi Phi came from
Vietnam to New York for the hearing. She said she worked in
the Quang Ngai area of Vietnam that was heavily sprayed
with Agent Orange during the war.
She believes that her four miscarriages after the war
were a direct result of the dioxin poisoning. She said the
effect on her had been "devastating" and that she knew of
many other cases like her own.
Dr Phan said, "This of course happened a long time ago,
but the effect on me is devastating, I have had many many
miscarriages, four times." Prior to the war she had a
Phan's lawyer, Constantine Kokkoris, claimed people in
Vietnam continued to be contaminated by eating the food and
drinking the water. If the case goes forward, Kokkoris is
asking the judge to consider it as a class action, meaning
the plaintiffs case would be accepted as the case for
millions of other Vietnamese who say they too have suffered
as a result of Agent Orange.
Kokkoris said, "At some point if we get passed these initial
we are going to ask to certify our
plaintiffs, who are named in our complaint to represent all
similarly situated victims of Agent Orange in Vietnam so
that we can get compensation for all."
"We are going to ask the court for money to clean up
this problem so that it doesn't continue to be a problem
for future generations," said Kokkoris.
After years of legal battles, in 1984 Dow and Monsanto,
finally agreed to settle out of court and pay $180 million
to US veterans. A handful of Vietnam war veterans turned up
at the hearing to lend their support to the Vietnamese
David Klein, President of the Veterans for Peace
organisation, said, "Vietnamese victims are taking action
similar to what American veterans did in the late
seventies, and we believe that it is just. If American
veterans got sick from it, then so did the Vietnamese and
everyone should be given a fair treatment."
The suit is regarded as a pivotal test of the reach of
American courts and considers the powers of the U.S.
president to authorize the use of hazardous materials
during war. If the suit is successful, billions of dollars
could be awarded towards an environmental cleanup and in
compensation to the Vietnamese people.
The chemical companies argue that they only produced
Agent Orange following US government specifications and
that there has never been a proven connection between Agent
Orange and the health problems it is accused of causing.
Outside the courtroom, Andrew Frey, a lawyer
representing the Dow Chemical Company, said the issue
should be decided by "diplomatic negotiations" and not by
"This is by the way the kind of claim that it normally
settled by state to state, diplomatic negotiations and not
by lawsuits, so we think it is up to United States
government to decide whether what it did was wrongful and
whether it should pay restitution, and the first step which
has not been established, is to show that in fact Agent
Orange actually injured people."
Asked whether Dow believes that Agent Orange is in fact
safe, Frey said, "Definitely. That's definitely our
position that there is no scientific evidence that it is
In court he argued that international laws in the 1960's
did not recognise corporate liability and the courts should
be careful about ruling on suits affecting the President's
Advances in Dioxin research and previous settlements in
New York courts involving corporate involvement in Nazi
Germany during World War II might weigh in the plaintiffs'
favor, defence lawyers conceded.
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