SW Legal Educational Publishing

FIFRA Does Not Preempt Defective Design Claim
Description Farmer who suffered crop losses caused by damage from properly applied herbicide cannot sue based on mislabeling of product, as it complied with FIFRA. But claim based on negligence in design and manufacture of product can proceed.
Topic Torts
Key Words Preemption, FIFRA, Defective Design
C A S E   S U M M A R Y
Facts American Cyanamid sold Scepter as an herbicide; it was registered with EPA, which, under FIFRA, approved the label. Ackerman, a farmer, followed directions but suffered crop losses due to damage caused by Scepter. He sued for damages but the suit was dismissed for lack of subject matter jurisdiction because the claims were preempted by FIFRA. Ackerman appealed.
Decision Ackerman's claim that "stands on the use of the product in accordance with label instructions ... should be dismissed as preempted." However, Ackerman "also alleges that American Cyanamid was negligent in testing the effects of Scepter." This claim is not preempted by FIFRA. "The line between a claim for mislabeling and a claim for a defective product is razor thin, and can turn on whether one could reasonably foresee that the manufacturer, in seeking to avoid liability for the error, would chose to alter the product of the label." Manufacturers of potentially dangerous chemicals have an affirmative duty "to guard against design or manufacturing defects in their chemicals."
Citation Ackerman v. American Cyanamid Co., Slip Copy (1998 WL 734223, Sup. Ct., Iowa)
586 N.W.2d 208 (Sup. Ct., Iowa, 1998)

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